How to help kids deal with back to school stress

Today’s guest post is by blogger and parenting author Becky Goddard-Hill.

Becky blogs at Emotionally Healthy Kids and has published 3 books with Harper Collins on emotional wellbeing for kids. Becky is a member of the National Council of Psychotherapists, holds a masters in Social Work and a postgraduate diploma in Psychotherapy. Her brand new book Create Your Own Calm is published September 17th.

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Lockdown, mental health and kids

It has been widely believed that lockdown has caused huge stress and anxiety in the entire population especially children.

ChildLine have reported a 40% rise in phone calls from under 11’s since lockdown began saying family tensions and fears of the virus are causing them stress.

Be Happy Be You was released earlier this year and is filled to the brim with positive life advice for teens 

But it’s not the full picture, especially in regard to older kids.

Last week lovely Laura (Little stuff’s very own editor) shared this really interesting research on Facebook:

“Anxiety levels among young teenagers DROPPED during the coronavirus pandemic, a study has suggested.

Thirteen to 14-year-olds were less anxious during lockdown than they had been last October, according to the University of Bristol survey.

Researchers surveyed 1,000 secondary school children in south west England. They said the results were a “big surprise” and it raised questions about the impact of the school environment on teenagers’ mental health.”

Coronavirus has made us all more closeted than before and kids have largely been kept safely at home and the world has been kept at bay. No wonder some tensions have abated.

Going back to school always bring stress to kids in some way or other, who’s their teacher going to be, will they make new friends, what if the work gets too hard? And so on. Fear of the unknown and  things outside of their control can cause tension and this goes right the way from reception to sixth form.

Children like familiarity, routine and security, it makes them feel calm and safe. Back to school challenges that.

School stressors

Return to school this year brings with it two distinct additional stressors:

  1. Kids have been away for a LONG time and it really will feel like a huge shock going back to the routine and pressures of school , negotiating friendships, being in a competitive and testing  environment
  2.  There are many fears about coronavirus and it spreading wildly through schools – contact with so many people will be scary for our kids and they will inevitably worry about catching coronavirus and bringing it home.

What helps?

In my new book Create Your Own Calm (Harper Collins) I share 50 fun activities for 6 – 12 year olds that help them manage their big feelings, fear, worries, anxieties anger and show them it is absolutely possible to reach a calmer state of being all by themselves. (These activities work for older kids and even us grownups too!)  

Let’s take a look at what will help kids struggling with back to school.

10 tips to help kids deal with back to school stress

  1. Get sleep sorted. Recent months will have sent sleep patterns out of sync and many kids will be rising late and sleeping late. Getting this back on track will take some effort and a new bedtime routine but it is worth establishing enough sleep is crucial to a positive attitude and a clear head.
  2. Encourage your child to eat well  – certain foods are brilliant at helping induce feelings of  calm: try eggs, blueberries, spinach, pumpkin seeds and bananas for a quick hit of zen!
  3. Be calm and confident around your child in regard to their back to school experience, feelings are contagious whether they be positive or negative.
  4. Tense bodies cause tense minds and vice versa. Encourage long warm baths, lots of physical exercise and perhaps some yoga to reduce tension in the body and help your child’s busy brain relax too.
  5. Slow and deep breathing is a quick way to calm an overwrought nervous system and slow a heartbeat down so the body and brain stop panicking. Teach your child how to breathe though their stress with simple breathing exercises such as blowing out their fingers as if they were candles on a cake.
  6. ‘Name them to tame them’ say psychologists about feelings and left unexpressed they build up inside and fester, leaking out in behaviour or emotional outbursts.  Give your child lots of opportunities to talk about how they feel and don’t be afraid to ask them directly.
  7. We all have a negativity bias; apparently it is left over from caveman days when being on the alert for danger helped you survive. But brains can be trained to think more positively with practice.  So do encourage this positive slant by ask your kids what they are looking forward to at school, what lessons are their favourite, who at school makes them laugh. Your focus on positivity will help them focus more on the positives too.
  8.  Help your child become a problem solver rather than a problem dweller. Look with them at their concerns about coronavirus or school and help them draw up a plan of action focussed on what they CAN do about the things they CAN control.
  9. Help your child be well organised for school by getting bags and packed lunches ready the night before and uniform out and shoes by the door, bus fare in bags and homework sorted Being prepared means mornings are far more chilled for everyone and they will go to school  much more relaxed.
  10. Finally teach your child, whatever age they may be, that before things get too stressful they should reach out and ask for the help and support they need. It is not a sign of weakness or not coping but absolutely a sign of strength.
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Being able to find a way to create your own calm is an essential life skill so if you put the time in together now it will pay dividends in the future and  your child will develop greater resilience and robustness n regard to their emotional health in relation to school and life as a whole.

 

Create your own Calm is out on 17th September and can be bought from Amazon and all good bookstores. Kids will love the creative exercises and learn so much!

Be Happy Be You was released earlier this year and is filled to the brim with positive life advice for teens 

We reviewed Becky’s first book “Create your own happy’ a waay back, but it’s still as relevant today as to the day it was written if not even more so! Have a look here at our review.

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Author: Courtenay

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