Help children and teenagers showing signs of Stress and Anxiety
School anxiety in children is a problem that can affect any family but we can help children and teenagers reduce stress and anxiety. Your son or daughter may be happy, confident, and social; they can be highly academic, sporty, creative. But school poses challenges and difficulties, large and small, for every child and teenager. As the BBC has reported, these can lead to instances of stress, or periods of anxiety.
BUT WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is a chemical process that takes place in everybody’s brain. When we experience stress, certain stress-related chemicals are released. This process is sometimes referred to as the fight or flight response.
Not all stress is bad. Some degree of stress can even be helpful to us for our personal growth and development. However, too much stress is damaging to us.
You can think of stress on a continuum. One end is low stress and the other end is high stress. If we spend too much time at the high-stress end of the continuum this is bad for our health, happiness and performance.”
Dr. Jon Finn, founder and director of Tougher Minds
More on how to help children and teenagers to reduce Stress and Anxiety
Our environment has changed dramatically since our ancestors’ hunter-gatherer days, but our brains are much the same. So, when a child is anxious about school, their brains produce a stress response, but often the problem cannot be resolved quickly.
For example, if your child finds Maths difficult, then Maths lessons, tests and homework may cause them stress. But there is no way to instantly become good at Maths. Even if they are taking sensible steps, they may continue to feel stress and anxiety.
Intriguingly, a University of Bristol study found that during lockdown and the close of schools, anxiety amongst children actually fell, providing further evidence that school stress and anxiety are a significant problem for many young people in the UK.
The NHS advises that visible signs of school anxiety in children and teenagers may include
- problems with sleeping or eating
- increased outbursts of anger
- avoiding seeing friends, going out or going to school
We know that anxiety about school can be common in children, so within this article we have included some advice on how to help a child with anxiety about school.
If you want an even greater understanding of how stress and anxiety occur, and how you can address it, click the link below to listen to our podcast.
Stress & Anxiety in teenagers
Teenagers face many of the difficulties of younger children, and as well as this have public exams such as GCSEs and A Levels to worry about as well. Parents and teachers rightly try to draw their attention to the importance of these exams for their future ambitions. But the result can be even higher levels of stress and anxiety.
Social media, on computers and phones, means that teenagers can feel there is no escape from peer pressure, from feeling the need to compare themselves to both their friends. Internet celebrities carefully select how they present their lives, which can also help to make teenagers feel insecure about their own.
With parents increasingly aware of how social media can be a distraction from schoolwork, these issues can combine to cause ever greater stress and anxiety.
We know that anxiety can be a common problem for teenagers, so within this article we have included some advice that you can use to help your teenager reduce their stress and anxiety.
If you want an even greater understanding of how stress and anxiety occur, and how you can address it, click the link below to view our webinar – for FREE.
Exam stress in children and teenagers
Watch this video to see how our programmes have helped children reduce their stress and anxiety at school.
Exams are a particular source of stress and anxiety for this reason. Our brains pay a great deal of attention to what other people think of us, and how we compare to our peers. So, unless children and teenagers have a very high level of certainty that they will do well in exams, their brains will be likely to identify the exam as a potential problem and produce stress responses. Even children whose teachers are very confident that they will perform exceptionally can experience upsetting levels of stress and anxiety.
When early homo sapiens lived in small groups, our priorities were very different. How we were perceived was very important to our ancestors’ chances of remaining a valued member of that group, and their chances of passing on our genes (luckily for us they were successful in that!).
Children and teenagers know that their teachers, their parents and most likely their peers will find out their exam results. They worry that these people will think less of them if they do not do well. The stress and anxiety that comes from this can interfere with effective homework, revision and test performance, leading to even more stress and anxiety!
One girl, a star student and school first team netball player, reported to us that she spent hours at her desk with her Science homework and revision, feeling overwhelmed and helpless, and not able to even bring herself to open her books.
The good news is that this pupil was able to learn ways to reduce her exam stress, be happier and healthier, and ended up achieving the very top grades in every single one of her GCSEs.
View our webinar on how to help your child to build wellbeing habits that reduce stress and anxiety:
How to help children and teenagers reduce Stress and Anxiety
If you want to in how to help a child with anxiety, it is important to understand the role sleep, nutrition and exercise can play in providing a quick and reliable means of doing so.
Of these, exercise can give your child the most immediate impact. When we exercise, we create dopamine, noradrenaline and BDNF – a protein vital for learning and healthy brain function.
The girl struggling with Science built exercise into her homework routine. She would go for a short run before she started her homework, coming back feeling less stressed and less anxious. If she began to feel stress during the homework, she would do a short burst of exercise such as squats or sit up crunches to help reduce those overwhelming feelings.
Another parent came on our training programme, wanting to learn about helping children with anxiety about school. Her daughter had recently moved to secondary school and the increase in homework was causing her stress. She had a great deal of anxiety about being able to maintain her extra-curricular commitments – swimming and choir – as well as completing all her work for school.
We taught her how to write a Will Power Story™. This is, in simple terms, a timeline of the evening, allowing her to see ahead where she could complete her work and how much time she could afford to spend on open-ended tasks such as creative projects or revision for tests. It also allowed her to block out time to relax, use social media, and spend time with her family.
“Tougher Minds has given my daughter a clear framework to follow, allowing her to turn a wall of work into individual tasks she knows she can achieve. Planning her days this way are now a daily norm. Being a swimmer she trains five times a week and manages to juggle this commitment, her academic workload, school based sporting and extra-curricular music lessons without (too much) fuss or worry.”
– Tara, parent
Not only was this young person able to reduce her stress and anxiety, she did fantastically in her school subjects, excelled in swimming and choir, and even found that now she was organised, she had the time available to take up taekwondo!
Listen to our podcast to develop your understanding of how to help your child with stress and anxiety
Conclusion – help children and teenagers reduce Stress and Anxiety
These techniques will help your child or teenager reduce their stress and anxiety, and the Me Power Academy programme takes this much, much further.
Coping skills for reducing stress and anxiety for children and teenagers take time and repeated action. For this reason, we design our Me Power Academy resources to help families build helpful habits, so they can continue to benefit in the long term. Once your children have learned these techniques, they can use them for themselves, both in school and beyond.
Take our A.P.E. Brain Test to learn more about the causes of stress and anxiety.