As our children are heading back to school, they may already appear a little more stressed. Children that are in middle school and high school know that in the near future they will have hours of homework, papers and tests. If your children are in high school, they may already be dealing with college applications or SAT and ACT prep. Many of our children will also be participating in sports, drama, science teams, newspaper and other extra curricular activity. The minute these demands fall upon our children they can become irritable, sleep less and you may notice things getting out of whack with family life at home. There is certainly a lot to explore regarding whether our children are being overworked and whether school homework policies should be examined. But what can we do for our children right now and during the rest of the school year to help them be less stressed and worried? The following are some helpful tips that won’t take all the work away, but will at least help our kids relax more, release some stress and stay focused and get their work done.
1. Give your child some Maybe Statements. Sometimes when our children get stressed it is because they feel stuck or things are not going their way. They don’t realize in the moment that life will always change again and their future is not doomed if some things at school are difficult or not working out the way they would like. Remind them that as bad as things may look or feel, there is always the possibility that Maybe what is happening will turn out to be good, Maybe things will get better, or Maybe they can accept what is happening and still be OK. Thoughts of Maybe will help your child to return to the present more peacefully and get their work done with less stress and worry. Tailor a variety of Maybe statements to your child’s situation: “Even though Math was difficult last year, Maybe this year things will improve”; “Maybe I will make some new friends this school year”; “Maybe some new ideas will come to me and I can finish my college applications”; or “Maybe everything is okay regardless of all my worries.” Help your children create a habit of keeping Maybe statements close at hand so they will be prepared when stress and worry arise.
2. Teach your child the practice of gratitude. Gratitude creates a larger perspective on life so that every little thing does not get us down. Remind your children of all the wonderful people in their life, all the things that they love to do, and all the aspects of their life that they appreciate. A gratitude practice in the morning and at night will help them tremendously. It is best not to teach them this practice when they are in the middle of studying or are really stressed. It is best to share this practice when things are calm. This way, you can help them create a larger perspective so they react less during difficult times.
3. Try to buy some good quality lavender and chamomile essential oil for your home to help ease your child’s stress. Get a spray bottle at the drug store, fill it up with water and add six or seven drops to the spray bottle (more if you want the spray to be stronger). Spray the house and your child’s room before they get home. Another good option is to boil water and pour it into several bowls. Then add four or five drops of the oil and place the bowl in your child’s room and around the house. If they do not like the smell, there are other oils that are good for calming anxiety, like bergamot or valerian. Everybody has their own favorite oil, so see which one your child responds to best and that the family likes to smell around the house. If you have a child that is very allergic or sensitive, you may want to dilute the oil even more and spray very little around the house to make sure they are okay with the smell.
4. A nice cup of hot tea is always very soothing when children study. Try to give them one without caffeine. I find chamomile or decaffeinated earl grey tea to work wonders on helping my children relax.
5. If you have the time, nothing relaxes children more than a foot massage when they are studying. I have seen my own children go from stress and panic while doing an assignment to being relaxed and focused just by a ten-minute foot massage. There are plenty of “how to” videos on YouTube if you need some guidance, but just a simple massage of the entire foot does wonders. It is also good to do when your child is just telling you a story from school about something that made them stressed or hurt their feelings. Massaging their foot when they are speaking helps them release some of the tense energy they were feeling all day and return to more emotional balance.
6. Give them a hug. Sometimes there is nothing else to do but give your child a hug and let them feel your love. Even though you do not see a change on the outside, feeling love and support is a good foundation for any child to build resilience and keep them going throughout the school year.
And as parents, it is not easy to watch our children stressed and worried. These tips can help us, too. Even though the school year can be tough at times for our children, give yourself a hug and remember, MAYBE everything is still OK.