With first quarter and parent-teacher conferences over, our students can relax more now, right? Well, the truth is, this time of year can be tough. The newness of the start of the school year has passed, our days are getting shorter, and we’re spending more time indoors. This can all lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety, particularly if there are interpersonal relationship issues, stresses related to college admissions season, or discouragement about first quarter grades. As a parent, how can you help your child deal with the stress?
1. Mindfulness. Encourage your children to be present in the moment. Most stress comes when we are thinking about the past or the future, but the truth is that the only thing we can control is the present moment. We can make decisions now that put us on a different path than the past, or that set us up well for the future, but it is the “now” in which we choose our thoughts and our self-talk that is powerful for our mental health.
2. Exercise. Seems so basic, right? But with the shorter days, sometimes our routines change. If your child is not involved in an organized sport, encourage them to engage in some sort of fitness of their choosing that they can do on a regular basis. Exercise is critical for overall health, including ensuring that the brain functions to its highest capacity. So while your child might feel that they need to spend hours studying for a test, they will set themselves up for greater success if they can take exercise breaks to allow their brain to work better!
3. Sleep. One of my colleagues last week said that her favorite holiday of the year is Daylight Savings Time because of the extra hour of sleep! Don’t we ALL look forward to that? But the truth is that we need to give ourselves the gift of sleep if we want to be fully present in our lives, for our families and our work. Sleep serves as a great “reset” button for students who are feeling stress and anxiety, and unfortunately when one is stressed or anxious, it tends to have a negative impact on one’s ability to sleep. Encourage them to focus on the “now” (#1 above) and to adopt deep breathing to calm themselves. Also–NO ELECTRONICS at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
4. Cultivate Empathy. Recent advisory conversations in the Middle and Upper Schools have focused on the topic of empathy. In particular, “cognitive empathy,” as described in this article from KQED/MindShift, “allows us to try to understand someone else’s perspective and how they perceive the world, even when our feelings differ.” One of the most challenging aspects of being a parent is helping your child navigate the difficulties that can arise in relationships with others. Honestly, even as adults we struggle with this. Empathy, however, can help all of us handle difficult relationship issues.
Mindfulness, exercise, sleep, cultivating empathy, these are not only valuable to our children but adults can benefit from them as well. If you have ways you have encouraged any of this with your children at home, please share your practices with me. As you know, through homeroom in Early Childhood and Lower School, and Advisory in Middle and Upper School, we embrace conversations around these topics regularly. We always seek ways we can strengthen our partnership with parents to create a culture at Roycemore that exemplifies our core values.