Help Your School-Age Children Manage Stress

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We associate stress with people who have jobs (or well, also with those who don’t), struggling college students, work-from-home moms or dads, people who are going through life crises and those who are trying to find their way through life after college (after getting married, after staying in a fruitless career for a long time, after deciding that life is a mystifying road trip, etc). 

With the daily grind that parents go through, it makes it easy for them to forget that their school-age kids struggle everyday, too. Child stress is a serious concern that a lot of parents may not know exists. 

As Filipinos, we are known for our resilient nature, but as a parent myself, it has made me wonder if putting the pressure on children is what makes them better in dealing with life challenges later on. The answer may be "no".

Parents create year-long goals for their children: getting high grades, collecting awards and getting involved in a number of extra-curricular activities without consulting the ones who will be doing all the hard work -- their children. It is important for parents to discuss with their children what their goals or plans are for the school year to make them appreciate the process of achieving something. 

The pressure begins as early as the first grade when one, they have to make friends; two, they have to be good in everything that they do because it is expected from them. The stressful scenario is created by the adults, not them. It is the adults, most often than not, that take the fun away from learning, so stress is like a boogeyman always waiting to jump out of the closet.

Most schools also create a venue where students focus too much on competing with the others in class instead of encouraging students to focus on their own interests and honing their unique abilities.  

What are some tell-tale signs of child stress?

  • Difficulty in concentrating on school work and simple tasks
  • Constant headaches
  • Weak immune system
  • Lack of interest in age-appropriate activities
  • Having a bad temper for no reason at all
  • Refusing to communicate even with parents

What are the major contributing factors to child stress?

  • Traveling and getting stuck in traffic. Adults complain about these two quite a lot, so it must be difficult for young people, too.
  • Lack of sleep. Ten pages of homework every night and uncontrolled use of devices and the internet could be the culprit. Plus, most children in Metro Manila have to be up as early as 5 a.m. to catch the school bus or to avoid getting late. Again, there’s the traffic to blame.
  • Poor diet. Sugar-loaded snacks, soft drinks and fast food are popular quick fixes.
  • Lack of physical activity or too much of it.
  • Insufferable academic load. Five pages of Math, an essay, ten pages to read from the history book, five pages of activity from the English book, so on and so forth…and all in a night’s work?
  • Television. There isn’t a single study saying that TV is good for young people, but there are loads of studies that support how it’s negatively affecting their brain.
  • They do the same things repeatedly five days in a row every week.
  • Ruthless competition. There seems to be no acceptable reason why young people are programmed to think that they should be better than all the other 40 people in the classroom at all times.

How can you help your children manage stress?

Communication is an important key in understanding what your children are going through. Ask, but make sure to use a tone that will show your sincerity. Be specific about your questions. To do this you have to have a grasp of what their everyday life is like. You can start by asking about a particular school work you know they’re having difficulty with, or if they still feel sad about a friend moving to a new school or what they think about a teacher who they may consider a terror in class. It doesn’t have to be anything big. You just need to let them know that you are there to listen to them and that they can open up to you whenever they need to.

If they’re not ready to talk, don’t push it, but check back within the day to see if they’re ready to talk.

Remind them that perfection is not your aim as a family no matter what other people say about it. Support their ideas and encourage optimism at home. Most importantly, be your children’s best friend.

Let them know how much you appreciate them and their own unique qualities by briefly commenting on something that they’re working on.  “You’re doing great with that science project” will work wonders but “are you done with your science project?” will sound off-putting especially if they’re already tired from a long day in school.

Discuss their schoolwork load with them and help them with time management. Remind them that not everything has to be done in one sitting. You can also discuss weekly goals with them to make schoolwork more manageable. Stress creeps up when children realize that they are not ready for the tasks assigned to them. Help them prepare so you will also understand which areas they are having difficulty in.  

Spend quality time with your children during the weekends and at least an hour a day everyday. Quality time does not mean sitting in the living room together with everyone bowing down to a gadget. Go out, get some sun, run, have a picnic, or simply stroll around your neighborhood. This will give them (and you) a fresh start for the new week ahead.

Limit TV time—for all the good reasons.

Put more healthy options in their lunch boxes. Less sugar, more life. Sugar shoots up the energy level as fast as it brings it down. A child will feel the slump after a sugar high and will have more difficulty getting through the day.

Reward your child with a big, tight hug at the end of each day. Nothing heals a weary day better than a hug. It is also scientifically proven to make people healthy psychologically, mentally, emotionally and even physically. Why not shower your child with the benefit of a hug everyday?


cure for mondays is a top homeschooling philippine blog, best mommy blogger, top asia women's blog, best homeschool website, family issues blog, asian institute of journalism and communication, stress, child stress, depression, healthy lifestyle

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