12 Expert Tips for Reducing Stress at School for Kids

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Kids raising their hands in a classroom
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Back to school means stress for students, educators, and caregivers. And these days worries such as shootings and bullying add additional stress to longstanding concerns such as homework and whom to sit with at lunch — in some cases, for kids as young as preschoolers. Studies show stress growing with each generation. But there are ways parents and others can help students cope and be happier.

Girls on a sports team giving each other a high five
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Positive social connections are thought to be key in helping kids deal with stress, whether with peers, teachers, coaches, or adult role models. Parents should create opportunities for socializing, such as through extracurricular activities — maybe a sport or hobby club. Talk to other parents and communicate with teachers to encourage interactions and friendships.

Young girl doing school work
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Being mindful means being present in the moment, and concentrating on the positive opportunities a moment has to offer. Kids can be taught to be mindful of the present as a habit, avoiding bringing up past stressful situations.

School girl standing against a wall with her backpack
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Instead of the "suck it up and deal with it" mentality, young people should learn when to give themselves a break. A University of Edinburgh study showed that kids 10 through 19 who were better at practicing self-compassion felt less anxiety and stress toward school but performed just as well as other kids. Parents can teach self-compassion by encouraging a child to express how they feel without judgment. Simple phrases such as "I feel frustrated" are enough — no need to delve into the negative consequences of a mistake. The goal is to learn to recognize a mistake and move past it.
High school students hugging
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There are many benefits to doing small acts of kindness, which promotes happiness, gratitude, empathy, and compassion — and, according to Psychology Today, reduces stress and anxiety. Help your child identify small acts of kindness they can do daily, perhaps going out of their way to include someone being left out at school, holding the door for a teacher, anything that helps unburden another person. Have them share their kind gestures with you to reinforce the behavior.
Kid playing basketball at school
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Being active is a top way to reduce stress for anyone, at any age. Participating in gym class, joining a sports team, or even exercising at home as a family promotes stress management skills. Try for a family walk or bike ride, seek out a free yoga practice on YouTube, enroll a child in extracurricular activities, or seek free physical activity programs through school.

Young boy sleeping in his bed
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Lack of sleep robs the body of its ability to handle stress and anxiety. Make sure a child is getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age each night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides sleep guidelines if you are unsure how many hours your child should log.

Healthy school lunch
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Promoting a healthy diet at home and school can help kids deal with anxiety and stress. A healthy dinner at home together followed by a family walk and a good night of sleep can work wonders in helping children manage stress and anxiety, the American Psychological Association says. Providing healthy meals with adequate nutrients will help them function with more clarity and energy. Keep health in mind while cooking breakfasts, packing lunches, offering snacks after school, and providing dinners, and model proper eating habits.
Father and son bonding on a walk outside
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Making yourself available to your kids each day is important, says a school counselor in Dublin, Ohio. Provide ample time to talk through problems. Ask how their day was when they get home from school — and really listen. Show you care and understand without passing judgment, blaming, or getting upset yourself. Teaching them to talk it out, really listening to them when they do share, and encouraging them to find solutions will promote better decision-making skills and help them conquer stress and anxiety. That said, sometimes a child may not want to talk, and that's okay too. Sometimes all a child needs is to spend time with you.
Mother having a serious talk with her daughter
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If you know there is a stressful situation going on, reassure a child by offering solutions and walking through the routine or situation with them, the counselor recommends. It helps to reassure a child that some stress is normal, and everyone feels scared, lonely, or anxious at times. Reassuring a child you have confidence in them to handle a situation can go a long way.
Family dinner
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Routine offers comfort. When children know what's coming, they feel more in control and prepared. If schoolwork is overwhelming, help children create a routine that allows balanced time for work and regular scheduled downtime. A good bedtime routine can help improve sleep, while having family dinners at the same time every day can promote open conversations, sharing, and healthy habits.
Young girl making her bed
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Keeping a clean and organized home eliminates a source of stress for kids while teaching them to focus on the things they can control when feeling anxious. Clearing out the clutter to create a calm and relaxing home environment can help kids manage their stress and anxiety.
Mother jogging with her daughter biking behind her
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Your children are always watching and learning from you. It's important that you model appropriate ways to deal with your own stress. Positive self-talk and cutting yourself some slack when you mess up is one way; eating healthy and exercising and sleeping regularly is another. Keeping to routines, being social and making friends, showing others kindness, and talking through your own problems are all ways to model good stress management.

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