Student schedules and obligations have never been busier. This leaves many parents wondering how to deal with school stress. The first step is identifying the root cause, then creating a personalized plan of action. This includes identifying tools and resources that can be utilized reactively and proactively.
What causes stress during school?
Before you can offer your child assistance, you must identify the source of their stress. Keep in mind, that they may be experiencing multiple stressors. There could be a primary source, or the combined presence of the factors below can create a tipping point.
Here are some of the most common causes of concern:
Volume of homework—the average high school student has at least 7 hours of homework per week. For many students, this number is significantly higher, sometimes as high as 2.5+ hours per weeknight.
Difficulty of homework—in addition to the volume of homework, many students take on increasingly difficult classes to better prepare for college. Or they struggle significantly with a subject or two.
Participation anxiety—some students are extremely uncomfortable working in group settings, which can cause social anxiety. Or they are part of the 73% of children and adults who have a fear of public speaking.
Test anxiety—even if students are prepared and fully comprehend the information they’ve learned, many have severe test anxiety. This anxiety worsens when they aren’t prepared.
Overbooked—between their extracurricular activities, homework, part-time jobs, chores, and external obligations, students are busier than ever before.
Insufficient support—many parents don’t have time to help with homework or don’t understand the homework. Or they may not have the tools to provide the support the individual student requires. In addition, the curriculum, school, or teacher may not resonate with the student.
Insufficient sleep—between their busy schedules and electronics in the bedroom, many kids aren’t getting enough sleep. According to the CDC, children ages 6-12 require 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night and teens require 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
New school stress—moving to a new school district or transitioning from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school can cause significant stress and anxiety.
Environmental changes—students thrive with routine, so any changes to their daily routine or home life can create short or long-term stress. This includes the change to their school schedule each semester.
Social stressors—this includes factors such as making new friends, having a different lunch or schedule than close friends, not feeling a sense of belonging, peer pressure, low self-esteem, social media, and interpersonal conflicts.
What are signs of school stress?
Every child (and adult) responds to stress differently. Pay attention to any changes in your child’s behavior, including but not limited to:
- Increased irritability
- Increased anxiety
- Frequent worry
- Lack of joy
- Increased illness
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling short of breath
- Breathing quickly
- Negative self-talk
- Physical self-harm
- Substance abuse
Is school more stressful now?
It’s easy to say that every generation has more stress than their parent’s generation. However, statistics show that students don’t just have more stress than their parents at their age—but more stress than their parents do today.
Children are facing heightened challenges, including:
- Fear of gun violence
- Sexual harassment
- On and offline bullying
- Heightened pressure to perform
- Political stressors
- Pandemic-related stressors
Is school a cause of depression?
The connection between school stress and mental health can’t be ignored. The statistics are shocking, heartbreaking, and something every parent should be aware of.
According to the CDC, in 2019, 1 out of 6 high school students had a suicide plan. This number is up 44% since 2009.
This pressure only compounds when students go to college, where they also begin to stress about student debt. Or their month-to-month finances. Even before the pandemic, 40 to 60 percent of college students struggled with severe anxiety or depression at least once in the past year.
How do you deal with school stress?
Take a direct but pressure-free approach. Let your child know that it is safe to share their struggles with you. Avoid the temptation to compare your children to yourself or others, as this breeds shame. Be patient, as your child may be hesitant to share their stress. They may also be experiencing self-appointed shame and comparison.
Most importantly, don’t feel the pressure to go it alone, as there are a variety of tools and resources to help your student.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- School counselor
- Free and paid tutors
- Friends and family
- Peer-to-peer support groups
- A private therapist
What type of self-care is available to students?
Many schools have added self-care and mental health tools to their curriculum to help students manage their stress. However, many schools do not have the funding for self-care. Not to worry, as you can work with your child to personalize their destress routine.
The main objective is to lighten their load by allowing time and space to rest, recharge, and play. Some of this time should include unplugging from their electronic devices, which is easier said than done.
For inspiration, this Therapy Tribe article provides 250 youth self-care ideas.
Should you consider home school for student stress?
As we all learned during the pandemic, homeschooling is a major transition. However, it is a transition that works well for many students. If not home school, many parents and students are exploring non-traditional school alternatives.
A few options to consider include:
Homeschooling—school led primarily by a parent or a homeschool group. The curriculum or testing standards are often similar to that of a local school district.
Online school—students are educated at home through a virtual program that allows a bit more flexibility and at-your-own-pace learning.
Unschooling—students are allowed to follow their interests without the constraints of assignments, grades, or schedules. However, state educational standards must be met.
Private education—there are an increasing number of niche private schools that offer a variety of alternatives to traditional education.
Vocational schools—there are a variety of public and private vocational schools that teach students a trade. With these schools, students can begin working straight out of high school or are better prepared for their secondary education.
Considering CBD for your child’s student stress?
CBD remains a topic of debate for children and teenagers, so it’s something to discuss with your physician or pediatrician. Also, be mindful that your child’s school or extracurricular activities may prohibit use or possession on campus.
If you decide to give CBD a try, we suggest a USDA Certified-Organic product such as Holmes Organics. Parents like that our products are processed to filter out the THC to 0.0%. While CBD products with 0.3% (the legal requirement for CBD) don’t have an intoxicating effect, most parents are more comfortable with a product that contains 0.0% THC.