How to care for stressed-out students
A blog post by Saskia Theres, Inclusion and Guidance Counselor at Swiss International Scientific School Dubai.
Stress isn’t an inherently bad thing. Indeed, a healthy level of stress can improve one’s motivation and focus on the task at hand. It’s when stress turns chronic and persistent that it can be detrimental, and sometimes students may suddenly experience this when they feel that things are piling up and they have no outlet for release. It’s therefore important to know how to provide stress relief for children, both at the school level and the parenting level.
One of the most powerful and successful tools in a student’s arsenal against stress is time management. This skill should be cultivated from an early age to ensure that it’s carried over later in life. Parents can support their child with their time management by creating a timetable together with their child. This will include break times, a minimum of 20 minutes, and what time the child will work on what subject. It is sometimes easiest to schedule the hardest subjects first, so that the child afterwards is eased into less stressful subjects. In addition, this will boost their confidence as they are able to finish their day completing an assignment with success. It would be beneficial if the timetable also included any daily activities, such as a fun activity, or walking for a good 20-30 minutes. The timetable will eventually become routine for the child and it will later be carried on to adulthood.
A good boarding school assists parents in this endeavor by guiding the child and teaching them independence and the importance of the success of a good and strategic time management skills. This is done by already inputting a schedule into place and showing the child through firsthand experience that their stress levels are reduced.
Extracurricular activities, or ASAs as we call them at SISD, can be essential to diminishing the stress level of your child. Your child needs to be able to enjoy and have a school stress free environment, where they can focus on a specific activity that will lead them to fun and of course experience. Summers can be long and a little stressful as students have all the days to think about their new school year and what will come their way.
It would be quite advantageous and beneficial if their school offered a variety of activities that they could attend after school hours. This would also support their social experience and interactions, as they’ll be in the activities with their friends and peers both through work and play. If the school does not offer extracurricular activities, signing your child up with an outside school’s activity would build your child’s communication and social skills.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is an ancient concept with many proven positive impacts on life, including how to positively cope with stress levels. Through meditation, one can focus on being in the moment and appreciating the smells and sounds around them. Being in the moment also helps in locking away the stressful situations, what was and what will be, for even a moment. In other words, meditation can serve as a timeout from the world for a few minutes. It gives your mind a break from the stressful situations one is experiencing. It can, through mindfulness, help term the negative thoughts on a stressful situation into a positive one. You may opt to teach your child mindfulness and meditation at home, or choose a school that incorporates these concepts into day to day living.
Dealing with stress at school
Supporting a child with their stress levels is a team effort shared between the school and the parents. At school, a child has the opportunity to meet with their guidance counselor to work on strategic stress diminishing techniques. In addition, the child has his/her teacher’s support by seeing his/her teacher when they are confused or lost with an assignment. The teacher will then help guide them back on the path so that the child can independently discover how to successfully complete the assignment.
At home, the parents can assure a healthy and quiet working environment that is distant from any unnecessary interrupts to the child’s learning such as TV or loud siblings. Giving the child a free thinking and learning space at home can support time management skills as the child is free from distractions and can merely focus on his/her subjects. If required, the guidance counselor, teacher and parents could come together to find out how to best support the child and what each team member can do to guide the child.
At Swiss International School Dubai, we value our children’s mental outlook just as much as we do their academic output. As endocrinologist and pioneering stress researcher Hans Selye said, “Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” Through caring for stress not just as it arrives, but by helping our kids adopt the right attitude towards stress relief and management, we hope to equip our students with better coping skills for their futures.