Your Health: 6 steps to help their kids cope with end-of-school-year stress
June 9, 2016
The end of a school year tends to be hectic. Students are faced with a lot of projects and have some anticipation about change in their daily routine as summer draws near.
School has a very comforting rhythm for most children and the expectation of that changing can create a little bit of anxiety. The other week, I worked with a number of students who were feeling end-of-year pressure and they needed some practical tools to move through this transitionary time.
In my work with students, I don't intend to remove anxiety as much as to provide tools that support them in coping with and moving through some of these uncomfortable feelings.
You may also be seeing some stress responses at home, which can look like: being more emotional or reactive; having a shorter fuse or is more argumentative; changing eating or sleeping patterns; intense dreams or nightmares, among many other possibilities.
Here are six simple ways to support your child:
Get involved by asking how they are feeling as they head into the end of the year. You can ask them on a scale of 1-10 (ten being highest stress; 1 being the lowest and all the numbers in between) where they feel they are. Remember, this can change on a daily (even hourly) basis.
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Ask them if there is anything you can do to support or make life a little easier. Of course, needless to say, this does not include doing their work for them. Imagine if you were coming up against a big work deadline and someone you loved asked how they could support you? How would that feel in your life? Even just a favorite meal or an extra cuddle at night can bring stress levels down. Most people recognize that just a gesture of knowing someone is looking out for them can feel highly supportive.
Ensure sleep and nighttime rituals are well guarded. As these end-of-year projects come forward, and the sun continues to shine until 8:30 p.m., many students (especially in upper grades) will burn the midnight oil, so to speak.
Help your child break up projects into small manageable chunks. Sometimes our students have a great global outlook and see the big picture. That is a great skill, but can also create overwhelm by thinking about all the little pieces that go into the project. If they can visualize goals listed in small manageable chunks and cross them off when completed, they will gain a sense of power and mastery over these projects and feel empowered as they skid to their deadlines.
BREATHE. Stress naturally puts our bodies in a fight or flight mode in order to energize us to get things done. At the end of the day, it's nice to bring that stress level down by doing some nice slow deep breathing to recalibrate our nervous system and regain a sense of calm and presence (and ensure restful sleep).
Finally, plenty of non-competitive physical activity. Bike riding, hiking, picking wild flowers, skipping down the street, playing at a park or lake, or a short dance party.
Stress is a normal part of our lives, but knowing how to process it needs to be taught and practiced to gain an overall healthy sense of calm.
Alaina Reichwald is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and counselor at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School (SELS).