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Experiencing Stress at School - Supporting Young People, Parents and Teachers

Supporting Children in schools with stress

Stress at any time of life is difficult to manage, let alone when trying to manage an education. Children and young people are in a position where they are trying to navigate just that, with mounting pressures to perform and achieve. Naturally, can for some lead to stress, anxiety, self-esteem and confidence issues and leave them feeling perhaps vulnerable and in need of support, but not knowing how to access it or how to ask for it.

Some signs that a child or young person might be struggling:

  • Changes in their attitude – they might become snappy, or answer back more than they previously might.

  • Withdrawing – They may not speak up as often, prefer to keep themselves to themselves, or not want to interact with the adults in their life or even their peers as much.

  • Lack motivation – They might not want to do activities they would usually get enjoyment from, their usual hobbies, new exciting activities might not peak their interests.

  • Reassurance seeking – A child or young person who is struggling with stress might find that they need more affirmations that they are doing well, to validate the pressure they perceive is on them.

  • ‘Acting out’ – They may feel that becoming defensive or defiant is better than admitting that there is something they don’t understand or feel confident in. In these situations, often labelling them as the ‘naughty child’ can be harmful, and in some cases create a self-fulfilling prophecy where the child then thinks that is how everyone sees them, therefore that’s what they are and they have no incentive to change unhelpful behaviours.

  • In more severe cases, self-harm – A child or young person might feel so overwhelmed that they see harming themselves as a way of coping, or a release. This is not always done with the intention or taking their life, but can be more around physically feeling things, or a way of self-punishment.

Young Minds have some useful support and resources on self-harm and Papyrus support young people who are having suicidal thoughts. If you have concerns about immediate or significant risk please reach out to emergency services. 

Obviously, not all changes in a child or young person are signs that they are struggling. There is an acceptance that they are naturally changing, especially through puberty.

How can parents help?

Creating a safe, non-judgemental space for them to open up to you is always key. Letting them know that they are allowed to speak to you and share any problems they might help is invaluable. Keep a calm, supportive approach and allow them to honestly talk about anything that is bothering them.

Find resources that can be available to them, from academic to social resources, being able to let them know it’s ok to accept the additional help.

Reinforce the importance of taking breaks and that being able to rest and relax is as important as working and achieving.

Knowing where your limits are is key, there are people who can help, and here at The Condition Management Company we can work with your young person and you to find a way forward.

How can schools help?

Firstly, finding out exactly what the child is stressed about. Don’t be afraid to speak openly with them, and ask what it is that they’re finding tough to manage. From then, reasonable adjustments can be made.

  • Discuss having a time pass where the child can leave a lesson slightly earlier if they’re overwhelmed.

  • Allow the child to have somewhere to go that’s quiet, particularly at break times and lunchtimes

  • Improve communication channels between staff to know when a child is having a tough time. Understand the signs of perfectionism, and know when to involve further professionals.

  • Encourage regular study breaks and relaxation techniques, including breathing techniques – a good one with children is hot chocolate breathing where the child envisions a hot chocolate in front of them, it can be in their favourite mug, and breathe in through the nose, taking in that warm, chocolatey smell, and breathe out through slightly pursed lips to cool the hot chocolate down.

Ultimately, being able to invite communication with the child and giving them the time and space is invaluable.

The Condition Management Company creates bespoke solutions to work with young people, parents and schools to allow young people to thrive and succeed. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you.

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