Keep your children cool as they head back to school

Tips for managing stress in children

Marianna Kilburn

05 September 2014

Tips for minimising stress

Back to school stress, what a topical subject this week and with good reason, when we consider the many new experiences that children face over the next few weeks:

New school year, new teachers, new classroom, new timetable, new lessons and new homework plus possibly even a new school and new friends.

The long summer days of fun filled activities are suddenly replaced with racing, reading, reacting and routines!

Following are a list of tips inspired by child psychologists who have written about the subject and are aimed at helping minimise stress.

Watch for warning signs

One of the difficulties for children and parents is that stress in children often presents in an unconscious way e.g: tummy trouble, irritability, tiredness, being distracted, and generally feeling under the weather and out of sorts. Be aware of any signs which your child does not normally display.

Talk about feelings

If your child talks directly about being fearful, encourage open and honest discussion about the fear. 

Often the sudden change in routine as well as new and unknown factors are the main causes of anxiety. By talking to your child about what to expect and what can be done to help, many fears can be alleviated.

If the fears present through the signs mentioned above, try asking questions about their day, their experiences and what they enjoyed and did not enjoy. 

Questions help to probe deeper whilst demonstrating that you are listening to and interested in what they think and feel. Acting as their guide rather than an instructor helps to build a child’s confidence in their ability to solve their own problems.

Help get them organised

After a long summer, routine and organisation skills may have fallen by the wayside.  Avoiding a last minute rush will help prevent stress for both you as a parent as well as your child.

Tasks such as getting uniforms, stationary, school books and bags prepared in advance allow time for a more relaxed breakfast and a manageable pace the first day back.

Furthermore, ensuring that both you and your child are completely clear about drop off and collection times, places to meet and after school activities help keep everyone calm.

Create a routine

Structure can be a helpful and stabilising resource when faced with new and unknown challenges.

This is a good time to set boundaries around homework times, bedtime and alarm calls.

Maintain a balance

Back to school clubs, extra homework, meeting with friends, all these aspects of a child’s life are important but add to the demands on their time. 

Do keep an eye on their schedule for overcommitment and check they are coping with all that is required for completion of homework. 

Pressure of ‘getting it right’ is a known source of stress so talking regularly about homework and how they are managing, provides a great support. Some children really benefit from extra help and outside tutoring if a subject is particularly challenging.

Build in daily downtime

The many demands in the day can be tiring and overwhelming and it’s crucial to schedule in regular slots to stop, relax, breathe and rest in whichever way is best suited to your child’s needs.

Keep calm and exercise

Young children especially can be like mini sponges picking up both on happy relaxed atmospheres and on tension.

Taking care of your own needs and doing all you can to avoid too much stress at this time will pay dividends for both you and your child. 

Do encourage chats about the positive aspects of a new school year such as seeing old friends, making new ones and learning more about the subjects they enjoy most.

Eat and sleep well

Good sleep is critical for us all and particularly for children. Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress symptoms and result in problems with behaviour, alertness, irritability, sadness and/or anger. Don’t wait until school starts to put in the bedtime boundaries but start a week or so beforehand so your children are refreshed before they begin.

A good breakfast is equally important at the start of the school day as well as healthy snacks and regular meals which maintain blood sugar levels and energy. Do keep an eye on hydration levels as well, encouraging regular intake of water (dehydration alone can seriously impact energy and stress levels).

Exercise and outdoor activity will help let off steam, and create the physical (not only mental/emotional) tiredness which promotes sleep as well as boosting those feel good chemicals that being out in a natural environment can give us.

Herbal help

If you are in need of a little extra help as your child adjusts to the new school year a gentle addition to the tips above could be a one of the essences from our Flower Essence range, such as child essence or emergency essence, safe for children and created to rebalance emotions in times of stress.

Passiflora is a combination of Passionflower and Avena Sativa (Oats) traditionally used to relieve nervous tension.  It can also help promote sleep.

These are suitable for children aged two and over.

With a threat of colds lurking, as well as the stress of returning to school, vitamin C is a useful addition to help both the immune and the nervous system. Nature C is a chewable tablet of naturally vitamin C, obtained from fruit and is recommended for children aged 6 and over.

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