By Alissa Eastham, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 23, 2016 –
Whether your child had a leisurely summer or the past few months have been filled with activities, it is often an adjustment for students and their parents when the first day of school arrives.
Some parents may be relieved that school is back in session, others are concerned or worried. Students may feel excited or anxious about seeing friends, meeting teachers, receiving homework and starting new activities.
Although stress can be beneficial (such as when it motivates us to complete tasks), it warrants our attention most when left unchecked. We can experience stress in a variety of ways, and stress may manifest itself differently in children and teens.
Physical symptoms of stress can include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, stomach ache, chest pain, muscle tension and pain, headaches, indigestion, nausea, increased sweating, weakened immune system and back and neck pain.
Emotional symptoms can include decreased motivation, increased irritability and anger, anxiety, depression or sadness, restlessness and inability to focus.
You may also notice behavioral changes as a result of stress, such as constant thoughts about stressors, eating too much or too little, social withdrawal, nail biting and drug or alcohol use.
The return of the school year can be an exciting and stressful time, and as it kicks into full gear, it can be helpful for both parents and students to manage their time in order to manage stress. The following tips can help.
Use a planner. This can be a hard copy or digital version on your phone or computer. Having a way to organize tasks and activities can help you remember what you need to get done. Most schools offer planners to students at a low cost.
Prioritize tasks. Using a planner will also help prioritize time, tasks and activities. Writing things down helps your child remember them. It also gives you and your child a list to help determine what is most important and what can be done quickest.
Break larger tasks into smaller ones. If students become overwhelmed with several assignments, it can be helpful to break down the homework into smaller, more manageable parts. This can reduce anxiety and give your child a starting point.
Limit distractions such as electronic devices. This will help your child focus on the task at hand. It is also helpful for students to have a dedicated study space where distractions are limited.
Schedule more time in between tasks. Avoid rushing from point A to point B. By purposefully scheduling more time between tasks, you can reduce your stress when a meeting runs long or you find yourself stuck in traffic. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early.
Create boundaries. Students can be involved in too many activities, adding stress. Are they only getting involved because others expect it? Encourage them to decide what’s most important and consider cutting out unneeded tasks and activities.
Stress can be positive when it motivates students to study for tests or complete homework assignments, but we often don’t notice it until it’s caused a problem in our lives. Consider how you use your time and what can change so that your family will reap the benefits and have a less stressful school year.