As an adult, there are probably many days where you’d rank work as your top source of stress. Difficult bosses, unpleasant co-workers, tight deadlines and cranky clients are all things that can ruin your good mood and keep you awake at night. When you think about it, kids face similar pressures even at the school level.
While stress has been a mainstay for college and high school students, the pressure is also felt among elementary students. What are the common sources of stress for students? Here are just a few.
- Academic pressure: High school students are thinking about exams, meeting standards and keeping up their grades for college. But academic stress shows up in lower grades, too, especially when they’re wrestling with a complex new topic. Whether their grades are great, middling or barely passing, stress is possible at any level.
- Peers: Enough said. No matter how “popular” the student, just about everyone has ups and downs with friends and classmates.
- Teachers: Challenges and clashes with a teacher can make for a stressful day, regardless of the reasons behind it.
- Environment: School is a busy, noisy place. Spending a long day under fluorescent lights and moving through crowded hallways can take its toll.
Tips to help your child de-stress after school
While you can’t eliminate all their stress, here are some after-school things you can do to help kids unwind and get their mood back into balance.
Find something physical but relaxing: After dinner, head outside and take a family walk. Go to a local park or just stick around the neighborhood. Researchers have found that exercise and spending time in nature relieves stress and makes us feel happier. (Just be sure to don the reflective clothing on dark nights for safety’s sake.)
Watch a comedy: After a rough day, it may help to stream a funny movie or TV show — or just get silly — because laughter has a long list of benefits for your body and well-being. It activates and cools down the stress response, it eases tension with muscle relaxation, relieves pain, boosts the immunity system, reduces anxiety, builds connections with other people … just to name a few listed by the Mayo Clinic. In short, a bout of belly laughs is truly a reset button for your day.
Eat dinner together: A delicious meal at home with the people you love can do a lot for a cranky mood, which is just one of many reasons to make time for family meals. Keep things focused on each other.
Play a game: Playing a game can be a big stress reliever, and when you think about it, it’s easy to see why. A game represents a small realm, which players can focus on and control. Whether the game is on-screen, with dice or a physical board, it can put stressed kids into a better frame of mind, and make a great opportunity for some bonding time.
Give in to the urge to chill: Kids need downtime, too. If your child feels overscheduled and overwhelmed, open things up for more unstructured time. For the younger kids, self-guided play can help them deal with stress. And as it turns out, teens also need a version of playtime, and boredom has its benefits.
Go to bed: Sleep and stress go hand in hand. Too much stress gets in the way of a good night’s rest. When that happens, it may be time to look deeper at the source, and work with the school to help them manage a tough situation. In the meantime, most parents are attuned to the link between sleep and mood. For the isolated no-good, horrible, very bad days, a low-key evening and early bedtime may be in order. School-age children need 9-11 hours a night, while teens need 8-10 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Sign up for after-school activities: While structured and enriching, these also offer a relaxed, low-stakes environment that helps kids discover new interests and build on their current passions.
A new spin on an activity they love might be just the ticket. For example, a Bricks 4 Kidz after-school workshop lets kids snap together LEGO Bricks into unique models, projects and challenges that inspire and energize kids.