Try these 6 tips…
Lazy pool days, late night sleepovers, beach vacations… it’s all coming to an end. Time to dust off the alarm clock, restock the bookbag, and go back to school.
Kids may be a little bummed come September, but for some, the anxiety can get overwhelming. The pressure to make friends, succeed academically, manage extracurriculars, and create a college-worthy resume becomes more intense with each passing year. It’s gotten to the point where our schools are in crisis and we dread the next tragic news story. It feels less and less like our kids can just be kids anymore.
The good news is, parents don’t have to sit idly by and worry – there are things you can do. Whether you see the signs of anxiety or not, these tips will help you help your child to create a balance between school and life.
Communication is always the best place to start. Talk to your kids about how they are doing. Go beyond grades and activities to how they are really feeling, what they enjoy and what they don’t, what they feel proud of and where they are struggling. Start this early and often, show your sincerity, and be patient.
When you talk with your kids, listen without judgment. Ask but don’t answer – let your child work out the answers with open questions and support. Again, be patient. It’s tempting to want to fix things and offer your own solutions, but the process of your child learning to solve problems is invaluable to their development and self-confidence.
Be aware of the physical, mental, and emotion signs of anxiety and stress. If your child is experiencing stomach pains, your first instinct may be to ask your doctor for medicine to cure it. While medicine may alleviate physical symptoms, it won’t address the true cause of stomach pains related to stress.
Talk and listen, and bring up your concerns with a mental health professional. New signs such as withdrawal, disinterest, sadness, and aggression should never be ignored. Also be aware that kids may try to hide signs, so stay alert and check-in with them regularly.
Just like you are more than just a parent or just an employee at your job, your child is more than just a student. Socializing with friends, downtime, and personal projects are as important as schoolwork for development. Every child is unique, and the exact balance will change as interests and priorities change.
Ask the key questions: what do you enjoy, are you doing it just because you feel you should, do you feel rushed or constantly tired, are you happy most of the time? Help your child look at the pros and cons and plan out a schedule that works for them.
Build a structure to your child’s schedule that allows for school-life balance. Highly driven kids may be prone to perfectionism and overachieving, sometimes leading to severe exhaustion and anxiety. For them, it’s important to incorporate more relaxation and pleasure activities. Also ask why your child feels that they must perform at such a high level. Many parents perceive this to be a good thing, but it can cause extreme and even dangerous levels of stress and depression.
Other kids react to pressure by withdrawing, sometimes abandoning schoolwork and appearing uninterested or lazy. They may need greater structure or a different balance. Either way, it’s important to not just make adjustments but also address why your child is struggling.
Be clear and realistic with expectations for your child. Every child is different, and the most effective expectations are tailored to who your child really is, not what the outside world may want them to be. Expectations should never be based solely on a college application or career aspirations. Involve your child in creating expectations that match who and where they are. It’s okay not to follow the crowd – some of the most successful people take unusual paths to get there.
Be aware that what your child perceives as your expectations may not always coincide with your true intentions. Express that your acceptance is not dependent on your child meeting expectations – this message cannot be repeated often enough. Unconditional acceptance is the greatest and most supportive thing you can offer.
If you have specific questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask for help. It is never too early to take action in your child’s best interest!
Total Health Concepts