10 Warning Signs Your Child Is Stressed About School
Stress is a normal reaction to change—which can be good or bad! Good stress helps to sharpen thinking skills and helps the body perform better (like improved sports performance). But bad stress can have the opposite effect.
Stress triggers the body’s “fight-or-flight” response. The brain releases hormones as a response to stress that can be felt physically and mentally. Physical reactions to stress include increased heart rate, sweating, or shakiness. Mental reactions to stress include increased alertness, forgetfulness, or constant worrying.
All of these effects can have a big impact on a child’s performance in school—making stress an issue important for students (and parents) to identify and deal with.
Why is it important to pay attention to stress in students?
Short-term stress is a normal part of life. It becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with everyday life. This is called distress or chronic stress and can lead to bigger problems such as:
- Decreased or poor performance in school
- Fatigue from being on high alert
- Mental health issues
- Overall low quality of life
School is often a major trigger for stress. A heavy workload, too many commitments, and even social interaction with others can result in a stressed-out student. And stress doesn’t discriminate—in fact, it is often seen in students as young as kindergarten! So, it’s important to catch it before it leads to long-term problems.
Keep reading to learn about warning signs of stress in students so you can face them before they become a major problem.
10 Signs of School Stress You Should Be Watching For
1. Avoiding Others
Being alone is a way some students try to cope with stress. Stressed out children often become withdrawn from school and social activities. Pay attention to how your child is interacting with others. Your child may start spending time alone, stay in his or her room for long periods of time, or stop hanging out with friends.
2. Short-Term Behaviour Changes
Sudden behaviour changes are a major warning sign of stress. This might include acting out, temper tantrums, or aggression (hitting, biting, or kicking).
3. Overreacting to Small Problems
Overreaction is a common sign of stress due to always being on high alert. You may notice your child gets easily frustrated and hung up on small problems (such as getting stuck on a homework question).
4. Change in Patterns
A major sign of stress is a change in routine behaviour. Your child may have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. A change in appetite is also common—you may notice your child has a smaller appetite or starts skipping meals altogether.
5. Difficulty Concentrating
Your child might have a hard time focusing on tasks. This is often seen during homework time, in class, or when listening to others.
6. Lack of Enjoyment/Excitement About School
One of the tell-tale signs of stress in kids and adolescents is a loss of interest or enjoyment in school. A heavy workload and trying to keep up with other activities can make school a big stressor, causing your child to start withdrawing from class participation or showing decreased motivation.
7. Physical Effects
Physical effects of stress may include headaches, frequent stomach aches, nightmares, and even bedwetting. You may also notice your child is getting sick or infections more often than usual.
8. Excessive Clinginess/Need For Attention
You may notice your child starts to become more clingy than usual. This is often seen when dropping your student off at school, or when trying to do household duties such as making dinner.
9. Unable to Keep Eye Contact
When speaking directly to your child, you might notice he or she is unable to keep eye contact with you. This is a major sign of anxiety related to stress.
10. Unable to Sit Still
One sign of stress is the inability to sit still. Your child may start fidgeting—such as shaking his or her leg when sitting, tapping his or her foot, or picking up a habit like picking at his or her nails. This is often a way to try to relieve some of the pent-up energy stress can bring.
What Can You Do To Help Relieve Your Child’s Stress?
If your child is stressed, there are several things you can do to help him or her manage the stressors in school.
If overcommitment to activities seems to be the problem, help your child create a plan for time management. This will ensure school still remains a priority while balancing extra-curricular and social activities.
If your child is struggling to keep up with schoolwork, tutoring can help build better skills and comprehension to reduce the stress that homework and test-taking bring.
Lastly, spend time with your child and encourage conversations about thoughts and feelings. Sometimes just talking can help to lessen the burden your child is carrying!
Although there are many potential causes for stress, school is one of the top stressors for children. By watching for the above warning signs, you can identify and start dealing with stress before it becomes a bigger problem.