Back to School Stress

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The summer is almost over and that can mean only one thing for Robeson County youth. That’s right, back to school! Now before parents and grandparents start rejoicing, it’s important to remember that beginning a new school year can be stressful for young people. Besides the obvious threat of bullies, homework, cliques, and peer pressure, there may be much deeper emotional issues that may not be given proper attention.

This school year may bring new challenges to some families with a change in school assignment, such as moving from an elementary school to a middle school, or (due to recent changes made in Robeson County) moving to another school because of school closures. But what if these changes also coincide with the divorce of parents, a death in the family, an argument with a friend, or any of the dramatic physical and emotional changes that occur during adolescence? There are often many more factors involved with going back to school than just buying a new book bag or outfit.

What can parents or grandparents do to make these transitions as smooth as possible? Young people are by nature very resilient, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require guidance and support through stressful times. One of the most important things is to be available when your child wants to talk. It might be early in the morning, late at night, or even riding in the car to baseball practice. Some children may send off signs that they are “too cool” to talk or parents can’t possibly understand what they are going through. It’s still important for them to know you are available. They need to feel the lines of communication are open, even if they pretend to be unappreciative.

The more comfortable children are, the more they will openly share their thoughts and feelings. Sharing time together will help children realize there is a stable place for them to talk about their stresses and get important feedback from someone they trust. More often than not, children whose parents are consistently around them and spend quality time together tend to function better.

Once the school year begins, you may want to keep a close eye to see if your child is displaying any signs of stress. These symptoms may include: irritability, depression, impulsive behavior, anxiety, sleep problems, nervousness, and headaches. If you notice any of these warning signs, there are many different approaches you can use to help ease their stress level.

Start by giving your child realistic expectations regarding what you want them to accomplish in school. Encouraging them to try simple relaxation techniques and to get plenty of sleep may help get them back into the flow of the school year a little better. Don’t forget the importance of eating healthy meals and snacks. But most importantly, always be there for your child. When children know they have someone interested in their lives, it will go a long way in helping to lessen their school-related stress in no time. Best of luck on a great school year!

For more information, contact Christy Strickland, County Extension Director, at (910) 671-3276, by email at Christy_Strickland@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

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