What is Back to School Stress?
Back to school is a hectic time for parents and children. Some adolescents experience school stress and anxiety. “Typical anxiety and worries are fairly common for children going to school for the first time. Even older children who are switching to a new school or grade may worry about making friends, doing well in their classes, or adjusting to a new teacher.”
Excessive worrying can be problematic. It can lead to “sleep difficulties, problems with concentrating, irritability, frustration, and anger.”
Why Do Adolescents Experience School Stress?
Children encounter school stress from a variety of factors. Common stressors include:
- Bullying: Will they get bullied or see others getting bullied? This includes cyber bullying via social media.
- Violence: Will they experience physical or sexual trauma? Children also have fears related to recent school gun violence.
- Academic performance pressures.
- Social pressures: Will they make friends, be popular, or feel accepted?
- Pressure related to sports and after-school activities performances.
Symptoms of Back to School Stress
“Younger children may find it difficult to recognize and verbalize when they are experiencing stress. For children, stress can manifest itself through changes in behavior.”
Parents should look for these changes in their child’s behavior:
- Acting irritable or moody
- Withdrawing from activities
- Expressing worries in an excessive manner
- Complaining more than usual about school
- Displaying fearful reactions
- Sleeping too much/too little
- Eating too much/too little
- Avoiding parents and friends
- Excessive hostility toward family members
- Stomachaches and headaches
- Difficulty breathing
Set up a Sleep Schedule
Plenty of sleep improves attention, concentration, memory, and mental health. Lack of sleep can lead to “more irritability and increased mental health issues.” Make sure children get at least 8-13 hours of sleep each night.
Talk With Your Children
Approach school stress with ease and nurturing. Start the conversation by asking your child:
- What worries you about school?
- Did you get stressed last school year?
- What are you not excited about this school year?
School stress manifests from fear of the unknown or uncertainty. Psychology Today says, “The more you can help kids think through possible situations and plan ahead, the more it can help reduce anxiety. Identifying a plan in advance can ease negative thoughts and expectations.”
Create Positive Coping Strategies
Most children cannot push through school stress and anxiety. Put in place positive coping strategies, such as:
- Positive self-talk;” I can do this” and “I will be OK.”
- Visualization- floating on a cloud or lying on a beach.
- Deep breathing exercises.
It’s important to create healthy coping techniques. If school stress persists, consider seeking help from a psychologist or family pediatrician.
If your child is struggling with their mental health, click here to learn more.