As we enter the back-to-school season, your children may be feeling anxious about what the school year will be like for them. You may be feeling anxious as well, worried both about their happiness with school and with the added pressure it brings to your life. Yes, your child is the one in school, yet you’re most likely the one that drives them to practice, makes the extra trip back to school when they forget their equipment or books, and enforces curfews and study time. Not to mention all the extracurricular activities you have to support them for.
Going back to school can cause stress, anxiety, and depression for kids and adults alike. There’s good reason for it. When it comes to your kids, they may not always talk about it, yet there are many factors that can affect their mental health.
Here’s what you need to look out for as you send your child back to school:
This is true for both kids and parents. Not enough quality sleep can cause an inability to focus, lower productivity, irritability, and depression. For your kids this can lead to lower grades and their inability to focus can also cause them to be injured if they play sports. It’s important for everyone in your household to get plenty of sleep.
While adults can manage on 7-8 hours of sleep, teenagers need about 9.5 hours to nourish their growing bodies and minds. Most teenagers average about 7.5 hours a night, 2 less hours than their body needs. Two hours per night over the course of a 5-day week means your child is losing 10 hours of much needed rest every week.
Sleeping in on the weekends is not enough to make up for that sleep deficit. To keep your kids healthy and help them reduce stress naturally, help them make sure they’re getting a minimum of 9 hours of sleep per night, every night. Keeping a regular sleep routine, even on the weekends and over holiday breaks, will help them function better in the long-term.
Here are some harsh facts about bullying from the American Society for the Positive Care of Children:
- 160,000 kids skip school every day for fear of being bullied
- When bystanders step up to help, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time
- 30% of kids admit to bullying someone else
- 1 in every 3 kids has been bullied at school
- 70% of school age children have witnessed bullying
- 28% of students grade 6-12 and 20% of students grade 9-12 have been bullied
- When it comes to cyberbullying, 6% of students grade 6-12 have been victims and 16% of high school students within the last year. For LGBT students, that number jumps to 55.2% experiencing cyberbullying.
Is it any wonder, with these statistics, that kids today are stressed out about school and what they’ll face there? Kids fear for their safety if they’re being bullied physically, yet cyberbullying is a completely different fear. They don’t face their attacker and don’t know how many other students are on board with the attacker’s comments and posts.
3. Standardized Testing
Approximately 25% of students have test anxiety. Not every brain functions the same; just because a student has a good memory, it does not define their intelligence. For students who freeze up at testing even though they know the answers, it can cause anxiety over how their grade will be affected if they don’t do well and what other students will think of them if they fail.
Testing can have a long-term effect on a student’s grades and their ability to move forward and apply for higher education.
Students face a variety of stress factors including deadlines, peer pressure, fear of failure, and more. With all of this pressure, anxiety in children and teens is on the rise. When your child is dealing with anxiety, it can make it hard to be successful at the factors that are causing the stress in the first place; creating a vicious cycle that they aren’t able to break.
If your child also has a fear of speaking in public, getting called on in class or being asked to present a project to the class can significantly increase their anxiety level.
5. Panic Attacks
Agoraphobia is a major cause of panic attacks. Schools are packed with masses of students moving about in a multitude of directions, creating a panic situation for anyone with agoraphobia. The condition can also be brought on by the use of prescription medications, being overwhelmed or overloaded, and high levels of stress.
For students who suffer from panic attacks, it can have a serious impact on their ability to study, participate in class, and maintain high grades.
A study by the University of Phoenix found that, on average, high school students deal with an average of 17.5 hours of homework per week. That’s in addition to the time they spend in class and doing extracurricular activities. Which means, between school, sports, clubs, and homework, your high school student is putting in more hours of work per week than you. Your child is dealing with school work and peers from the time they wake up to the time they fall asleep every day of the week.
Homework time has to find a way to fit into your child’s schedule, which means lots of late nights, causing them to be sleep deprived, leading to fatigue and higher levels of stress.
Is it any wonder with the amount of work to do, peer pressure, bullying, and sleep deprivation that stress is on the rise for high school students? Add to the pressures of upcoming graduation and trying to make decisions about school and work that will affect the rest of their lives.
NYU found that 49% of high school students deal with stress on a daily basis. This level of stress can make it difficult for your child to concentrate and focus in class, during tests, and working on homework. Stress can also lead to physical disorders like obesity. If not treated, stress can become a way of life that will follow your child into adulthood.
Many students deal with depression under the weight of their workload and pressures from teachers, friends, and even parents. They tend to detach and hibernate within themselves to deal with the emptiness that overwhelms them.
In extreme cases and if not treated, depression can lead to self-harm and even suicide. Many students’ dealing with depression never seek help for fear of how they’ll be perceived.
9. Social Integration
Students have a deep desire, and need, to be accepted by their peers and feel like they belong. Feeling out of place can be damaging to their emotional and mental well-being, causing them to have difficulty feeling happy and safe in their environment. What if more than half of high school students didn’t feel engaged at their school? There would be a lot of students feeling left out and alone, causing depression and anxiety among them. That would be bad for the entire school, right? Surprisingly, a Gallup poll found that a whopping 56% of high school students did NOT have a sense of belonging.
School is not just a place for students to study academics, it’s also where they learn social skills that will help them excel in college and in their careers. If they’re not connecting with their peers, they’ll have trouble learning these necessary skills. Many students who feel like they don’t belong describe
10. Psychiatric Disorders
The high-stress situation of school can be a contributing factor to a child’s psychiatric disorders. More than 6% of teens are taking prescription medications for anything from depression to ADHD. These medications can cause your child to become easily distracted in class, making it harder for them to keep up with notes, assignments, and testing.
Students with ADHD find standardized testing almost impossible to manage, however basic classroom assignments and homework can be just as difficult. Even though their intelligence level may be high, falling behind on testing and homework can make them question their intelligence. Usually this is not related to their mental capacity. Instead to their lack of motivation to pay attention and keep up.
In order to help kids through these mental health issues and concerns of their school years, it has to be a joint supportive effort of parents, teachers, school administrators, and school boards working together to ensure the safety and happiness of our students.
If you feel that your child is dealing with any of these issues and needs help, seek professional guidance with a counselor, therapist, coach, or psychiatrist to help your child succeed through their educational journey.
Withers Whisper would love to work you and your child should you find these types of issues happening in your child. We offer FREE consultations call us we can help. 970-682-4405. Check out our other blog posts on stressors and how the horses and I can help. www.witherswhisper.com