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6 Ways to Help Your Child Handle School Stress

6 Ways to Help Your Child Handle School Stress

Theoretically speaking, stress is the body’s psychological and physical response to a situation we perceive as threatening. The situation doesn’t have to be realistically threatening, but are reaction is what makes it so.

Tutorful understand that in the same way as adults, children can find themselves in stressful situations and exhibit symptoms of stress. Given that school is one of the central parts of the child’s world and identity, it’s no wonder that it’s also often the source of stress for many children.

School Stress among Children

Sources of school stress in children are versatile and they can be viewed in several different categories:

  • teachers’ personality and behavior (strictness, kindness, classroom emotional climate)
  • physical conditions (too many children in the same class, distracting noise)
  • environment (school violence, crisis situations, etc.)
  • school obligations (tests, homework, grades)

According to research, the majority of children (two thirds) experience stress related to school on a daily basis. The most common stressor for children is the inability to keep up with school obligations.

Additionally, one in six children aged 5-16 were identified as having a probable mental health condition in 2021 - that is around five children in every classroom.

A worrying survey also showed that around a quarter of teenagers suffer with symptoms of anxiety such as feeling nervous or on edge, feeling irritable, having trouble concentrating, and trouble sleeping.Stress doesn't have to be caused by school in order to affect their performance at school.

How to Recognise Stress in Children

Children and adults show similar symptoms of stress reactions. They can be:

  • emotional (sadness, anxiety, panic, mood swings, anger…)
  • cognitive (self-doubt, low focus, forgetfulness, ruminating thoughts…)
  • physical (sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, face redness, stomach aches, headache…)
  • behavioral (crying, outbursts, aggressiveness, isolation…)

Unlike adults, children not only exhibit psychological and physiological symptoms of stress, but it actually has an impact on their development and the ability to manage stress later in life.

So, this is what you can do to help your little one tackle the challenges of school stress better:

Conversation, conversation, conversation

When it comes to tackling your child’s stressful response to school, your first line of action should be a conversation. Many children tend to isolate and are unlikely to approach their parents on their own. That’s why you should be the one to take the first step and hear about what’s bothering your child.

Active Listening

In the previous point, we accentuated the importance of conversation, but it should be structured in a different way than a standard parent-child “lesson”. When you’re discussing what your child is feeling, you should avoid giving advice and explaining to your child how they should feel.

The best support is parents who actively listen and actually hear their child. This way, the child has the feeling like they can talk to them and approach them for finding solutions.

Employ Storytelling

Storytelling is a very powerful tool that can also be helpful in allowing you to tackle your child’s school stress. The conversation can be structured as examples from your own life, either by connecting their situation to their work or by remembering a situation from your own school days if you want to be more relatable.

This kind of conversation shows children that it’s normal to make mistakes and to feel negative emotions. Even though negative emotions are normal, it’s important to find strategies to face stress.

Focus on Positivity

It’s always advisable that parents remain positive, cheerful and open and help the children perceive the situation from a different angle.

You should avoid reactions such as “Don’t be angry/sad/scared”. They are not helpful in these situations because they ‘forbid’ the child from feeling negative emotions. Let your child know that it’s okay to be angry, scared, lonely or nervous and let them talk about their feelings.

Introduce Physical Activity

Different types of activities that involve physical exercise contribute to reduced stress and anxiety in children. As a parent, you can easily introduce physical activity in your child’s daily routine.

“We usually associate physical exercise with sports, but with children, physical activity can happen in many normal, daily scenarios. A simple visit to the park and an hour or two of playtime can do wonders for their stress levels. If your child is older, a great idea is to take them to a swimming pool”, says Melanie Frankes, a children’s writer at IsAccurate.

However, you should focus on non-competitive activities that don’t trigger stress from comparison to other children. These activities should also be predictable space and time-wise and take place in an environment that the child knows well.

Encourage Hobbies and Interests

Unfortunately, schedules of many children are getting more packed with school, activities and sports that it doesn’t leave a lot of time for the child’s personal interests and hobbies. At the same time, hobbies are one of the main and healthiest coping mechanisms a person can have to manage stress, whether it’s a child or an adult.

Take a little time to look at your child’s schedule and determine when they would have more time to partake in their favourite activities. For example, if your children like drawing and painting, surprise them one day by giving them a day off from their chores and allow them to paint for a while.


Suffering from school stress can be scary for children, but for parents too. It’s definitely not easy to see your child go through hardships and issues that seem so silly from an adult perspective. However, they are definitely not silly and irrelevant in the context of their life and environment.

Luckily, as a parent, there is a lot that you can do to help your child manage stress caused by school tasks, obligations, and situations. It’s all based on conversation and active listening – if you don’t have the habit of having “serious talks” with your child, you should definitely start doing so if you start seeing signs of stress in your little one.

Stress can also bring on anxiety, here is a really helpful guide that has been put together by experts to help manage the symptoms of childhood anxiety.

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Kirstan N

Kirstan N

7th Feb 2023