Under Pressure; talking to your kids about stress

The start of a new school year can be a daunting time for any child at any age. This year your child may be starting a new school, taking new classes or moving up a grade and although for many kids this will be met with excitement and anticipation, for others the change might be stressful and worrying. 

Children need adults to help them manage their emotions, wether that is through offering emotional support or demonstrating how to remain calm when they encounter stressful situations. According to Kids Matter, ‘warm, trusting and responsive care towards children enables them to respond with appropriate emotions and internalise a positive view of themselves and others… children who have been helped to manage their difficult feelings (such as stress and worry) gradually learn how to do this for themselves’.

Talking:
Have a conversation with your child about going back to school, ask if they have any worries or concerns; create a space for your child to be open about how they feel and offer support and advice. Sometimes just by listening to your child and giving them the opportunity to tell you what is concerning them, your child can work through the problem themselves and find their own solutions.

Feeling:
Your child may not even realise they are feeling anxious or stressed, luckily our bodies give us warning signs such as butterflies in our stomachs, headaches, sweating and light-headedness. If you are concerned your child may be getting stressed, ask them to tell you how they feel and ask whether they know why they may be feeling that way.

Showing:
If you child is beginning to worry about the start of the new school year help them to reframe their negative thoughts into something positive. One of the best ways to do this is to show them how to be optimistic when something goes wrong or to help them to look at setbacks as learning tools, reminding them about what they are good at and providing opportunities for them to succeed.

Preparing:
Help your child prepare if they are worried about new classes with revision or going over some work from last year. If they are starting a new sport help them prepare by having a go at the sport in your backyard or in a local park. If they are moving to a new school help them stay calm by staying calm yourself (even if you are feeling anxious too!) and help them to get organised with new books, stationary and bag so they feel ready. 

Reassuring:
Remember that we all experience stress and it’s perfectly normal. Sit down together as a family after the first day back and share first day experiences – celebrate their ‘ups’ and give them space to talk through their ‘downs’; by expressing their emotions your child will often feel reassured and begin to relax, especially when they realise that others have felt that way too. 

At Life Education our All Systems Go module, supported by Bupa, helps children to understand how their body works and how to recognise when they may be feeling stressed or under pressure, so that they can make informed, positive decisions when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

What you can do:

  • Talk to you children about their feelings and ask them to share their worries
  • Take your child’s mind of the new school year by introducing a structured, daily routine
  • Read Dr John’s Anxiety Check List
  • Your family could participate in the Bupa Family Challenge and build healthy habits for the start of the new school year.