Back to School Stress
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The summer is almost over and that can mean only one thing for Lee County youth. That’s right, back to school! Now before you parents and grandparents start rejoicing, it’s important to remember that beginning a new school year can be stressful for young people for a variety of reasons. Besides the obvious threat of bullies, homework, cliques, and peer pressure, there comes a much deeper emotional issue that may not be given proper attention. First of all, it has been a long time since most kids have been in a classroom, much less on a regimented schedule. Just imagine if you took three months off of work and suddenly were thrust back into a structured daily routine. You can imagine how stressful it would be to adopt to such a drastic schedule change, right? What if these changes in schedule also coincided with your parents divorce, a death in the family, an argument with a friend, or any of the dramatic physical and emotional changes that come with adolescence. Now do you see what I’m getting at? There are often many more factors involved with going back to school than just buying a new book bag or outfit.
What can parents do to make these transitions as smooth as possible? Young people are by nature very resilient when it comes to coping with these situations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require guidance and support through stressful times. One of the most important things a parent can do is to be available when your child wants to talk. It might be early in the morning, late at night, or even riding in the car to baseball practice. Most often it will be when the child feels comfortable enough to share their feelings. Many children will send off signs that they are “too cool” to talk to parents or that parents can’t possibly understand what they are going through. Even if they are sending off a lot of these signals it’s still important for them to know that you are always available if they need to talk. It is important for them to feel that the lines of communication are open, even if they pretend to be unappreciative.
The more comfortable kids are with parents the more they will openly share their thoughts and feelings. This comfort level can best be achieved by spending time together. Spending time together can be as simple as having a family meal or watching a ballgame on t.v.. Sharing this time will help children realize there’s a stable place for them to talk about all the stresses they have and get important feedback from someone they trust. More often than not, kids whose parents are consistently around them and spend quality time together, tend to function better. Kids who can’t count on those parental connections don’t do as well, and are often disconnected from society later in life.
Once the school year begins you may want to keep a close eye on your kids to see if they are displaying any signs of stress. These symptoms may include: Irritability, depression, impulsive behavior, anxiety, sleep problems, nervousness, and headaches. If you notice any of these warning signs, there are many different approaches you can use to help ease their stress level. First start off by giving your child realistic expectations regarding what you want them to accomplish in school. Simple relaxation techniques, nutritional meals, and plenty of sleep may help get them back into the flow of the school year a little better.
But most importantly, always be there for your child to talk to. When kids know they have parents at home who are interested in their lives and whom they can talk to, it should lessen their school related stress in no time. Best of luck on a great school year!
Bill Stone is 4-H Youth Development agent with North Carolina cooperative Extension in Lee County.