It’s always sad and painful to see that your child is experiencing stress in school. However, this is definitely not something uncommon: a study showed that almost half of students report feeling “a great deal of stress” every day.
While you can’t do much about their feelings and reactions, there’s definitely a lot you can do to help your child handle to challenges of stress and pressure as a parent. Here are some of the best and healthiest ways to do this:
1. Teach them Coping Strategies
As a parent, you, unfortunately, have the experience of stress in your life. Throughout your life, you had to juggle many commitments, obligations, and pressures, and the way you managed to get through it all is by developing effective coping strategies.
“Coping strategies are what prevent us from cracking under pressure in times of great stress and anxiety. It’s also something that we employ every day, whether with awareness or subconsciously. Simply put, coping strategies are different for everyone – and they can be both healthy and unhealthy, productive and unproductive”, says Miriam Collins, a psychology writer at Studyker and WriteScout.
As an adult, you can teach your child that it’s important to choose healthy coping strategies. For example, instead of isolating, overeating, overthinking, engaging in harmful or dangerous behavior, teach your child to choose the path of healthy coping: relaxation, exercise, socialization, and more.
2. Let Them Know They Can Talk to You
One of the things that makes school pressures even more stressful for children is the feeling that they can’t talk to their parents. Many kids believe that if they get bad grades or start underperforming in school, their parents will be mad or disappointed in them. This belief leads to a vicious circle of even more stress.
It’s not enough to just say the words “you can talk to me” – you will actually have to show that, no matter the issue or scenario, you will always accept their feelings and never get angry.
3. Help Them Find their Venting Activities
Students are under more pressure than ever, and it also applies to the amount of time they have to spend in school or studying at home. This is why they often drop out of extracurricular activities in order to keep up with their schoolwork.
If your child doesn’t have an activity that helps them relax and unwind, help them discover it. Try getting them back to something they enjoyed when they were younger before they even knew about stress from school: spending time in nature, playing videogames or anything that relaxes them.
4. Teach them About Priorities
School is important, but staying healthy and happy is definitely more important. This is something that should be crystal clear both to you and your child.
If your child understands that there are more important things than school and getting good grades, such as family, friends, health, and personal well-being, things will quickly fall back into the right perspective.
When they lose sight of this (which happens often), your job is to remind them that getting a bad grade is not the end of the world and that they should practice gratitude for all the things that are going well in their life.
5. Make them Feel Accepted and Understood
Another important aspect of parent-child communication when it comes to reducing school stress is promoting feelings of understanding and acceptance. This can be especially tricky if your child is currently going through puberty, which makes them feel like no one understands them, especially not their parents.
The way to promote this type of healthy communication that will make them feel safe and less stressed is by using the methods of non-violent communication (NVC). Psychologists and counselors use this method to get results from healthy communication patterns.
It all builds on the premise that neither side of the conversation should engage in any type of judging or criticism, especially not the parent. The practice encourages participants to start their statements with “I feel” instead of blaming someone for a negative emotion for something that’s not based on facts.
6. Help with Schoolwork When you Can and Should
This is one of the most common doubts that parents have when their kids are going through stress in school. Should you simply help take some of the load off and do some of their work? After all, it will take you under an hour, while for them it could take much more and cause a great deal of stress.
Well, you shouldn’t exactly look at it that way. Sure, taking on some of your child’s workload would lessen their burden, reducing stress in the short-term, but creating many issues in the long run.
For starters, one of the main things that children learn from dealing with school stress is that they need to learn to rely on themselves, cope, and accept that life is full of stressful situations and environments. If you teach them they can always rely on you solving their issues, they will not grow up into fully independent individuals.
Therefore, your task is to identify when it’s a good opportunity to help your child out with some of their schoolwork. If it’s something irrelevant that’s just giving them a hard time, you can set aside some time and help them. However, you shouldn’t make this a habit or something that they expect you to do every time.
7. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Finally, one of the prerequisites of reducing stress, and preventing anxiety and depression is living a healthy lifestyle: exercising, maintaining a balanced diet and having healthy habits.
As a parent, it’s important that you show your child what it is like to live healthy in practice. In other words, you will have to lead by example. There’s absolutely no sense in eating fast food and lying around on your couch and then expecting your child to eat healthy and exercise.
One of the great things that you can do as a family is to play sports. Other than a direct decrease in stress levels, sports and exercise also have a myriad of other benefits. Exercising together will also connect you as a family and remind you that you are a team.
Seeing your child stressing out about school is one of the most hurtful things that you can experience as a parent, but unfortunately, it’s very common and normal. Luckily, there are some things that you can do to help them cope better and not develop an adversarial attitude towards school.