Stress at School
The first few weeks of school can be anxious, stressful periods as students adjust to a new academic and social climate, and possibly a new school. Parents can help their children deal with stress. The first and most important step is to listen to your child. It underlies everything else. Sometimes listening is enough to initiate the changes you want.
Here are several tips for parents who want to help their children cope with the stresses of school:
Break Bread Together
Eating together is extremely important and helpful on many levels, says Michael Miller. It gives parents and children a chance to talk about the day and the issues that came up. Just talking about a particular concern can often help children find the answers they need. In addition, interactions at the dinner table help children practice their communication and social skills. Good dinner conversations also help parents better monitor what their children are doing and the issues they are facing. Research has shown that students who eat regular meals with their families have better social skills, do better in school and, according to their teachers, are better socially adjusted.
Create Opportunities to Listen
In addition to mealtime it is valuable to create other opportunities for your children to share things that are on their minds. Regular, predictable activities with their parents, such as driving to school, walking the dog, or washing the dishes, give children opportunities to talk. Children often feel more comfortable bringing up difficult topics if the activity has a finite length that limits potentially unpleasant conversations.
Don't Rush Your Answer
Many parents want to respond immediately to a child's questions and concerns. In fact, they often dive right in, interrupting the child to offer advice or analysis. But that can irritate a child who thinks a parent is lecturing rather than listening. "It can be okay not to have an answer, immediately" says Michael Miller. "It's more important to let the child get things out." If you don't have the answer, let your child know that you have heard him or her and want to think about it before coming to any conclusions.
You're Not Alone
Reassure your child that he or she is not the only student worried how their clothes look or getting to class late. Other students are struggling with the same worries. It can help even more if you have a story about your own fears and mistakes when you were a student. You survived them, and so will your child.
This information has been approved by Michael Miller, M.Ed.S., LCSW (September 2008).