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Dealing with Back-to-School Stress

It's back-to-school time! For many students, the new year can create fear and stress, even on the school bus. (FILE PHOTO)
It's back-to-school time! For many students, the new year can create fear and stress, even on the school bus. (FILE PHOTO)
Dealing with Back-to-School Stress: Part 2
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

It is back-to-school time in the United States.

Back-to-school stress is different for different ages. Younger children may feel scared to leave their families. Making new friends and dealing with bullying can also cause stress for students. Older students may stress about their appearances, grades and getting into college.

School events and programs can help reduce stress

Many schools have events and programs that can help to cut down on student stress. Some offer open houses. At these events, parents can meet the teachers and see where their children are learning.

Making the classroom look bright and cheery can lessen stress for younger children. (AP PHOTO)
Making the classroom look bright and cheery can lessen stress for younger children. (AP PHOTO)

The American Psychological Association says parents can better help their children if they meet teachers and classmates and know the daily routine and school environment.

For younger children, seeing their parents in their classroom can help make it seem more familiar. And even older students can benefit from events and activities that make the school seem like a friendly place.

Danielle Lanteri is 14 years old. This year she started a high school that is new to her. Danielle says her school has a freshmen orientation. During this event, students play a game that takes them all over the school grounds. As they go through the school, they learn where things are in the building as well as meet other students and teachers.

Making connections in the classroom

Many schools have mentoring programs. In these programs, older students help younger ones understand the rules and culture of the school. At Danielle’s school, these older students are called Big Brothers or Big Sisters. Danielle says whenever she has a question or concern she talks to her Big Sister. Getting advice from an older student, she says, cuts down on her stress.

Communicating with students is also good advice for teachers.

Mary Anne Aidala began teaching in the New York school system in 1962. She retired 39 years later, in 2001. Ms. Aidala suggests that teachers share details about themselves.

These personal conversations can help to create meaningful connections in the classroom. They can also reduce nervousness and stress among the students. Ms. Aidala adds that teachers should also invite children to talk about their families and describe what they did over the summer.

“Well, the teacher has to be very open. The teacher has to tell them something also about herself; so, they feel a connection. And then you can ask them if they want to share some of the things that they did in July and August with their families or friends, or camp experiences, activities that they were in and places they might have visited.”

The American Psychological Association also reminds parents to talk to their children. Ask them what they liked about their past school experiences. And then find ways to have similar experiences in the new school year.

The APA adds that sometimes stress of the school year is too much for you and your child to handle on your own. If that happens, find a mental health professional to talk to.

Don’t schedule your children too much

Carrie Anne Tocci is a coordinator of special services at Academic West in New York City. Academic West is an educational company that provides academic tutoring, test preparation and help getting students into college.

Ms. Tocci advises parents to not over-schedule your child with extracurricular activities, use technology to remind you of events and to keep schedules organized and to set clear goals

“Well, starting the new school year, we want to be mindful of not overloading our schedule. So, only the extracurricular activities that are mandatory. I also recommend using technology when it’s helpful, you might want to use the reminders app on your phone and your child’s phone, maybe Google Calendar, sync your phone with Google Calendar … and to have specific goals and to visualize those goals with your child.”

Ms. Tocci also suggests that if someone in the family has a learning style close to that of the student, that person could help with homework. This relationship may help cut down on stress.

Take a break!

Everyone needs a break from work. Family meals and outings can help everyone relax. A family game night or walk in a park together can give parents and children a chance to have fun as a family.

Education advisor Carrie Anne Tocci also reminds parents to let their children take a break while doing homework. She says if a student has hours of homework to complete, taking several 10-minute breaks can reduce stress.

Ms. Tocci adds that taking breaks while studying can help a student remember, or retain, what they have learned.

“It’s really, really important to take breaks. If you don’t take breaks we’re more likely to create more stress. And research shows you’re more likely to retain information that way.”

How do U.S. teens relax?

Danielle Lanteri is a busy high school student. To relax, she prefers a good book. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Danielle Lanteri is a busy high school student. To relax, she prefers a good book. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Danielle, the 14-year-old student, says her favorite way to relax and leave all her work behind is to escape into a good book.

“I really like to read. And so escaping into another world is definitely something that helps me reduce stress. I like to do that before I go to bed. It makes me feel that it’s not all school, homework, sports. I get to do what I like to do and relax.”

The teenagers who responded to the APA survey listed the ways they like to unwind or relax. The top most common ways are:

- listening to music (67%)

- playing video games (46%)

- going online (43%)

- spending time with family or friends (43%)

- exercising or walking (37%)

And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report.

I’m Anna Matteo.

If you are a student, teacher or parent, how do you reduce your stress during back-to-school time? Let us know in the comments sections.

Anna Matteo wrote this piece with reports and surveys from the American Psychological Association and other websites. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

open house n. an event in which an organization (such as a school or company) invites the public to visit in order to see the things that happen there

freshmen orientation n. the process of giving first year high school or college students training and information

mentor n. someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person

extracurricularadj. extra activities that are not part of the regular schedule of school classes

mandatory adj. required by a law or rule

specificadj. precise or exact

visualize v. form a mental picture; imagine

retain – v. to keep something in your memory especially for a long period of time