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Easing Back to School Stress in 2020

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October 7, 2020 | Published by


It’s not unusual for kids to feel anxious about going back to school, especially after an extended break. They may also be stressed about online lessons and being able to keep up. Recognizing the symptoms of anxiety and stress can make the back to school transition smoother for parents and children alike.1

Causes for stress and anxiety in kids

For many children, stress and anxiety stem from the fear of the unknown, which can be exacerbated when a child is entering a new school building, district, or learning environment. Insecurities about having the needed skills to be successful is a common stressor, as is the pressure of an increased workload.1

Social aspects of returning to school can also often take a toll, whether it be fear of the inability to make friends or even bullying. Virtual learning can make it more difficult for children to stay in touch with friends or make new friends. Many students can take solace in the breaks between school if they’ve had experiences with bullying.1

Appearance can be a leading stressor when returning to school as well, especially for children who may come from less financially stable families who are concerned about not getting the right supplies or clothing. Another source of anxiety can be changes to the body, whether it be weight changes, acne, or starting to go through puberty.1

While stress and anxiety regarding returning to school is common, it’s not something that should be ignored. It is vital to determine if your kids are wrestling with anxiety or stress.2

Signs of Anxiety

Children do not always have the easiest time putting their feelings into words, so it’s crucial for parents to understand and recognize the signs of anxiety. Common indicators include1:

  • Experiencing unexplained crying
  • Appearing more clingy than usual
  • Changes to eating and sleeping habits
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Expressing negative thoughts or worries
  • Getting upset or angry more quickly
  • Appearing restless and fidgety

If a child’s anxiety lasts longer than two weeks, this could be an indicator of an anxiety disorder, so be sure to speak with your healthcare practitioner.

Tips for parents and teens

Understand that some stress is good

Be communicative with kids about stress. Let them know that some stress, known as eustress, can actually be beneficial. Inform them that it can be advantageous to work outside their comfort zone and can even help develop their thinking and problem-solving skills.2

Make sleep a priority

A study shows that 35 percent of teens reported that stress has caused them to lie awake at night. This can start of vicious stress cycle. When children and teens don’t get adequate sleep, it is more likely that they’ll struggle in school, and thus be victim to more stress.2

One way to combat sleep issues is to remove technology from the bedroom. Using technology such as phones, tablets, or video game systems actually deteriorates your ability to fall asleep at night. Elementary students need on average 11 hours of sleep a day. For middle school students, the average sleep requirement is 10 hours. High school are recommended to get nine hours of sleep.2

Planning for when you are unmotivated

It’s completely normal to feel unmotivated sometimes. It can be helpful to be ready with strategies to keep individuals heading back to school motivated. Some useful tips include:

  • Keep them company: Not being alone with difficult work goes surprisingly far. You can even do your own work, pay bills, or reply to email next to them.
  • Come up with a strategy: Help organize homework in a way that makes it less bothersome.
  • Use the 25-5 method: Work hard for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break.

Try to remind yourself that any anxiety or stress you or your child may be going through is only temporary. Before you know it, your family will be in the back-to-school routine, and you’ll be easing into the fall semester.

References:

  1. Lee, K. How Can You Ease Back-to-School Anxiety and Stress? Verywell Family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/tips-to-ease-back-to-school-anxiety-620832
  2. Brundin, J. School’s Got You Stressed out? Here Are Some Tips For Teens, Parents And Schools . CPR News. https://www.cpr.org/2020/01/23/schools-got-you-stressed-out-here-are-some-tips-for-teens-parents-and-schools/

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