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Get ahead of academic stress

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The beginning of the school year can be hectic and overwhelming with new routines and classes. However, it is also a good opportunity to get ahead of the inevitable academic stress that comes with heavy course loads, high expectations, and a lack of free time.

Help your child prepare for high pressure times ahead with these well-known stress-busting strategies. These are important skills they will need as they move through student life and beyond.

Time management is one of the most important factors in preventing academic stress. It is not enough simply to plan; the key is how you plan. Discuss and plan together with your child instead of doing it for them. Involving your child in planning gives them a sense of ownership and can help them to stick to it.

Start by breaking up assignments into manageable pieces that can be completed over the course of a week instead of at the last minute. Reward completion with a chance to relax or a choice of other non-academic activities. This can encourage your child to want to get their work done early, knowing there’s something waiting on the other side. Use a table calendar, journal or other planning tool to help lay out their schedule of work.

While routines and planning are very important, it is equally important to plan for when routines go out the window. Out of all the activities your child has in the evening, which one is the lowest on the priority list? What can be skipped if it gets too close to bedtime? Having this in mind early can save arguments later on.

Rest can be used as a reward for completing small chunks of work, however rest should never be the last item on your list. Children need a lot of sleep and also need off time to pursue their own interests. Non-academic activities can help them figure out who they are and what they want in the future. It also helps them determine what kinds of things they truly enjoy, which is important for stress relief. If your child has discovered their interests already, encourage them to cultivate them.

Time with friends is equally important to ensure they develop proper social skills, which can include dealing with conflict, negotiating skills, compromise and empathy. This may not seem important, but the way your child learns to deal with friends will help them learn to deal with coworkers, bosses, professors and significant others in the future.

Children of all ages need to stay active to be physically and mentally healthy. Children nowadays are expected to sit through hours and hours of lessons, have less recess time, and often don’t get time to romp and play in the evenings. Make sure to encourage daily exercise as a way of maintaining not only physical but also mental health.

As we prepare ourselves for the busy parts of the year, now is the time to learn some mindfulness techniques and pass them on to your child. Whether it’s learning to breathe deeply when feeling anxious or trying some kids or teen yoga, it’s important to learn the skills before the need to use them arises.

Time management, adequate sleep and rest, free time for personal interests, social opportunities and physical activity are important for managing stress for people of all ages. Teach children early to incorporate them in their routine to help manage academic stress before it starts.

Katrina Rozga

Katrina is a Canadian clinician with a Master's in Counselling Psychology.

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