At Beacon Academy, we want to equip our students for success, both academically and personally. We value each student not only in terms of their education but also as a whole person. We know you want only the best for your child, and we endeavor to partner with you to empower your child to be the best they can be. While this is a sincere desire on the part of both parents and educators, some children experience the weight of these things and other factors as pressure and stress. Thus, it is important to identify high-stress levels in children and to leverage effective stress management strategies to help them not only cope, but also flourish.
Children today are experiencing higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than in years past, requiring effective coping strategies for youth and their parents and support systems. The American Psychological Association (APA) surveys for different mental health challenges across America, and they confirm that teens have reported higher levels of stress than adults for nearly a decade. In fact, teens ranked higher than any other group for mental health issues, anxiety, and depression in the APA’s 2018 survey.
Why Are Kids So Stressed?
According to Psycom.net, an online mental health resource, 83 percent of youth reported that their most significant source of stress was school. At Beacon Academy, we strive to work with the whole child as we educate and support both academic studies as well as character development. We believe our social curriculum is as important as our educational curriculum, and we will partner with you, the parent, to provide an environment that supports your child in both areas and to emphasize stress management for students. But school isn’t the only stress trigger for children. In addition to the demands and pressure of school, children also experience stress from:
- Physical development and maturity
- Separation or divorce of parents
- Challenges with peers and friends
- Having unreasonably high expectations
- Family finances
- Lack of emotional safety in the home
- Uncertainty with moving or changing schools
- Community violence
- Having a parent or care provider who is overly stressed
How Do Kids Demonstrate High Levels of Stress?
Just as different factors can trigger increased stress in children, the way stress manifests in children can also vary. There are four main areas in which stress can manifest. Be mindful of:
- Behavior: Is your child eating more or less than normal? Are they sleeping more or less than normal? Have they lost interest in things that were important?
- Physical: Stress is often demonstrated physically in school-age children with repeated illnesses, stomach aches, headaches, and other pains that don’t seem to have a direct cause.
- Emotional: Does your child seem uncharacteristically angry, sad, or overwhelmed? Do they disconnect or shut down?
- Cognitive: Do you notice a change in your child’s ability to focus, concentrate, or register information? Are they more forgetful?
What Are Healthy Ways to Help Kids Cope with Stress?
Fortunately, there are many things students and parents can do to help minimize and deal effectively with stress. Many items are just good self-care, which benefits everyone. Use these ideas to help your child discover how to deal with stress at school.
Many kids report sleeping less than what is necessary for a developing child to adequately refresh their minds and bodies throughout the night. Whether due to homework, electronics, or other factors, kids seem to be getting less sleep. Help your child to establish a bedtime routine/ritual and to get an age-appropriate amount of sleep every night—even on the weekends.
Rest and Relaxation
Consider building in time for rest and relaxation. Perhaps engage in this with your child. This would not include watching a television show or online content. Think of this as a nap, quiet time with music, working on a puzzle, taking a walk, or doing some mindfulness activity like coloring or visualization.
Coping skills can help children alleviate their stress, regulate their emotions, and create a sense of agency and control. The trick is in exploring and identifying what works best for each unique child. Stress management strategies can include breathing, taking time out, using aromatherapy, spending time with an animal, or doing something to release the energy that builds in the body due to stress. If your child deals with anger, it can include de-escalation and communication exercises.
Children still have developing brains and are not able to fully comprehend complex topics and impulse control. Helping them to determine what priorities are and where time should be spent can be helpful. If your child likes to participate in myriad activities that eat up much of their time, you may find it helpful to review if all activities are necessary and choose what is most important. Big tasks can be broken down into smaller ones to make things seem more manageable. Work together to find a system that works.
Use Beacon Academy’s Reflective Loop process to practice working through things that bring your student stress. The reflect loop includes the PWR process. Plan what they will do and how. Work out the plan (implementation). Reflect on what went well and what they will change next time. This is an excellent tool for integrating stress, learning from situations, and coping well.
Emotional Safety and Regulation
Children flourish in safe environments. Identity is formed during adolescence, and physical and emotional safety in the home are vital components of identity formation. Allow your child to identify what they feel and to express their feelings. Help them to combat negative self-talk with positive affirmations and develop realistic expectations of themselves and others by reducing perfectionism and allowing for best effort.
The CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity each day for those ages six to 17. Help your child appreciate the importance of physical activity and engage in something they enjoy, whether it is athletics, exercise, or even running around the yard with friends.
Processed food high in sugar and fat only increases stress levels. Why? Sugar and caffeine can increase the stress hormone cortisol, and caffeine has been linked to anxiety. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, eats a well-balanced diet, and includes plenty of fruits and healthy vegetables in their rotation.
Limit your children’s access to electronic devices each day and monitor what they do. Consider doing a family digital detox for a day or for a short time every evening so that you can connect with one another.
Finding the Good
A little gratitude can go a long way. Even in the worst situations, there can be good to be found. Encourage your child to find the good in all situations and even consider having them start a gratitude journal to help shift their thoughts on positive things.
It Takes A Village
Beacon Academy supports you and your child educationally and emotionally/socially. Our goal is to provide a positive, healthy environment where children can feel safe to learn, grow, and flourish. We believe every child has a right to do so without undue stress. If you do, too, and you want to learn more, please contact us today to find out more and whether Beacon Academy may be the right fit for your child.