Stress in primary school children has risen to worrying levels according to school leaders. 78% of school primary teachers in a recent survey reported a general increase in stress and anxiety among primary pupils.
According to the report by the website, Key, a national school support service, 27% of teachers surveyed attributed the increase in anxiety and stress to tests and 37% to social media. Thankfully MPs have finally acknowledged the adverse side-effects of SATs and have proposed eliminating them for seven year olds by 2023. The government has also committed £300 million to improve young people’s mental health. Many educationalists argue that this is too little, far too late. With evidence of self-harm, eating disorders and stress being on the increase in schools, what should we as parents be doing to help our kids feel less stressed?
According to a poll run by Time to Change, 55% of families do not openly discuss mental health. Katie Buckingham from the social enterprise, Altruist Enterprises (altruistuk.com) believes families should talk more about their problems. She believes the first step to combating this problem is to simply start a conversation.
Here are Katie’s six tips (think APPLES) when you talk to your child:
Approach casually: mention well-known celebs like Adele who openly discuss their issues
Positivity: avoid negative language
Patience: no one likes to be pressured
Listen carefully: ask open-ended rather than leading questions
Encourage your children to pursue things they love
Support: seek extra help if you feel it’s needed.
Create a Healthy Routine
Dr. Riccardo Di Cuffa, Director, and GP at Your Doctor (www.your-doctor.co.uk) says that having a healthy routine can help combat stress, particularly when your child is making the transition to a new school or starting the new school year. Here’s what is important:
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep improves our memory, sharpens our attention span and helps us maintain a healthy weight. Avoiding gadgets an hour before bed and doing more relaxing activities such as reading or having a bath can make all the difference to the quality of your child’s sleep.
Always Eat Breakfast
Make sure your child starts the day with a nutritious and healthy meal to set them up for a full day. This will boost their energy and can also improve memory and decrease stress levels.
Check-in with your Child
If your child seems stressed, for instance, if they are not sleeping well, not eating well, behaving more emotionally than usual or are less interactive or more clingy, you need to get them to talk and not bottle up their feelings and worries. Set aside a time when you and they are not too tired, like on the walk to school, or after you’ve eaten your evening meal and ask them how they are really feeling.
Getting regular exercise can reduce stress. Try to walk to walk to school with your child, visit a playground or park on the way home or get out for a walk at the weekend. Encourage your child to participate in a sporting or physical activity which will build exercise into their schedule automatically.
Starting a new school, the beginning of the new school year and general worry can make all family members feel pressured. Mindfulness and meditation can help children and parents alike. There is a growing body of evidence that mindfulness can help improve concentration and self-awareness, and help us all manage and regulate difficult emotions. You can introduce your child to mindfulness via apps on your phone, like Headspace and Buddifhy. Buddifhy has released a kids’ section to their app. Rohan Gunatillake, the creator of the app, says taking just ten minutes out to practice mindfulness with your child can help. “With children experiencing more pressure and stimulus than ever before, especially in the school environment, mindfulness is a technique which can be used by families to help them navigate modern life.” Anxiety and stress can be self-perpetuating, your child is anxious so only focusses on the things in their life that are causing them to feel stressed. Encourage them to have a positive outlook but also allow them to voice their fears. If you help teach your child about resilience and how to cope with the tough times, as well as the good ones, you will be teaching them a great skill for life.
If you are concerned about your child, please make sure you seek help from a medical professional.
By Claire Winter
This article has been provided by Families® Magazine, a free local magazine for parents and carers of children ages 0 to 12. Families® helps you get the best out of local family life, so find your nearest magazine here and don’t forget to pick up a copy!