Coping with School Stress
These 5 tips can help kids cope with school stress and homework pressure -- and ease school anxiety for kids of all ages.
When it comes to school stress, Hannah O'Brien has seen some extremes.
The 17-year-old junior at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California, has
witnessed students crying in class after getting low test scores, she says,
while others have gone without sleep a few nights in a row to keep up with
"I personally have seen so many of my closest friends absolutely break
-- emotionally, physically, mentally -- under stress, and I knew a lot of it
was coming from school work," she says.
School stress is serious business. A 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP) report suggests that for children and teens, too much work and too little play could backfire
down the road. "Colleges are seeing a generation of students who appear to
be manifesting increased signs of
depression, anxiety, perfectionism and stress," the report
Young Kids Feel School Stress, Too
A great deal of the pressure and anxiety about school stems from the college
admissions race, O'Brien says.
"Students are being really pushed to make great academic gains, with No
Child Left Behind," says Jim Bierma, a middle-school counselor in St. Paul,
Minnesota. "A lot of students are stressed out about college already - in
But younger kids feel pressured, too. Even among her elementary students in
Harrisburg, Arkansas, school counselor Joy Holt sees academic stress. Young
kids are terrified of failing the standardized tests now emphasized heavily
during the school year, she says.
"Even the little ones, they know how important [testing] is, and they
don't want to fail," Holt says. "They cry. They get sick. Students have
actually thrown up on their test booklets."
Of course, not all students find the classroom such a crucible. But in
today's landscape of high-stakes testing and frenzied college admissions,
experts worry that school stress takes a toll on too many.
Here's what parents can do to help ease the burden.
1. Watch for signs of school-related stress.
With teens, parents should watch for stress-related behaviors, like
purposely cutting themselves, or expressions of despair or hopelessness,
however casual the comments may sound. "Those are off-hand remarks that you
need to take seriously," Pope says.
Younger kids may have more subtle signs of school stress, like headaches, stomachaches or reluctance to go to school,
2. Teach kids time-management skills.
With today's heavy homework loads, time-management and organizationalskills
are crucial weapons against stress, experts say.
Teach kids to budget their time wisely with homework. "Try to do
something every night instead of cramming at the last moment," says Delores
Curry, a California high school counselor and secondary level vice president of
the American School Counselor Association.
Stress-Relieving Homework Tips
- Teach your kids to use a planner to keep track of assignments, says
middle-school counselor Bierma. When they finish each assignment, kids can
check them off for a feeling of accomplishment.
- If kids struggle with tracking their homework, help them by following along
with homework if their school posts assignments online.
- Give your child a quiet place to study, free of distractions, away from TV
and video games.
- If possible, have kids study earlier rather than later in the day. "The
later it is for most students, the shorter their attention span," Bierma
- Ask the school about resources if your child is struggling academically,
Bierma says. Many schools now have homework clubs, math clubs, and tutoring
programs after school.