Whether your children are in public school, private school, charter school, or homeschool, a new school year can stress out our children.
Unlike adults, kids don’t understand they are feeling stress, or know how to handle it like adults do. In fact, because of their lack of life experiences, they really don’t even understand they are feeling stress.
As parents, it is easy to miss our children’s stress cues. We can mistake signs of stress from our children for defiance and misbehavior.
The most common signs of stress are…
Increase in crying, throwing fits and temper tantrums
Unwilling to do anything or try anything
Lack of Patience
Lots of crying
Behavior that is out of the ordinary
Back to school stress can come from many sources, but the two main sources of stress for our children are unfamiliar situations (like a new school class or when a parent goes out of town) and pressure to perform (such as school tests, social pressures and extracurricular competition). All children feel pressure. Even our little ones. Pressure to share their toys, eat all their food and go to sleep. Both of these sources are very prevalent at the start of a new school year. There is so much uncertainty. I know that uncertainty can stress me out. Why wouldn’t we assume the same happens to our children.
As parents, it is our job to help our children not only deal with the stress, but to also help them recognize what they are feeling so they can start learning how to handle it.
Here are a number of ways we can help as the new school year gets underway.
1. Start with Ourselves
When we are stressed out, we pass that on to our families. Did you know that children who are constantly surrounded by stress are more likely to be overweight, and even small babies sense and respond negatively to our stress. We have to evaluate our own lives, make sure we are not over scheduled, get control of our stress and set a good example. Plus, our kids learn from us. They learn how to handle stress by watching US handle stress. What are we teaching them?
2. Give them a Voice
Our children do not understand what stress is. They are limited in their life experiences and knowledge. They don’t always understand what they are feeling, or what to call the emotions they experience because often times, they have never felt them before. It is our job as parents to help them. We need to give them a voice, give them words to express their emotions and help them understand the frustration that overtakes them.
Compare this concept to a time when you have been sick. I know for me, when I head to the doctor, I don’t want something to be wrong, BUT, having a diagnosis makes me feel better. It lessens the stress.
It is the same with our children. We need to give them a diagnosis. Not only will this help them as they experience the stress, but, as they have more experiences, they will be able to pinpoint their own emotions.
3. Role Play
Unknown situations bring stress. Instead of sending our kids into situations blind, take time to act out and discuss situations before they happen. This will help our children feel much more prepared and giving them knowledge will lessen their fears and stress. Take time to role play situations. That way, when they are in the unknown situation it will be like auto response and they will have more confidence in what they should do and say. This is one of the best ways to lessen the stress of a new school year. Talk about and role play all the new experiences our kids are going to face before they encounter them.
4. See their perspective
Consider how we feel when we are stressed. Now imagine being little, with limited understanding and experiences. On top of that, having very little control. If we will put ourselves in their shoes just for a minute we will quickly have sympathy for their situation and be more understanding and patient with their behavior.
Our kids need to talk to us. Not all children are ready to talk at the same pace. We need to be there, ready, whenever they are ready to talk. When our children know they are heard, it relieves stress.
Children should really only have one or two extra curricular activities. They don’t have to do it all. And parents shouldn’t be over-scheduled either. Even if our kids want to do a million things, it is too much for them to handle. More importantly we need to make sure they have time to play, to create, to imagine, and to spend time with our family.
7. Be Active Together
It has been shown that exercise helps us handle stress. The same applies for children. But when kids are always in front of technology, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to be active. Get moving together as a family and watch everyone’s stress melt away.
8. Go To Bed
Possibly one of the most important ways to help our children deal with the stress of a new school year, and even avoid it, is to make sure they get enough sleep. Everything is worse when we are tired and life is much harder to deal with. Make sure kids get enough sleep. Get them on a schedule and make it a priority.
Stress is apart of our lives and our children’s lives. A new school year can bring out the worst. Helping our children now will not only lessen the stress they experience as children, but also teach them the tools they need to handle stress as they grow too.
How do you help your children deal with stress?