Everyone gets overwhelmed once in a while, and this is especially true in kids who are facing academic obstacles. Many parents have been feeling particularly stressed themselves after dealing with this pandemic for the last several months. Check out these helpful stress management techniques that parents can use when their child is having a rough day!
Diffuse the situation. The first thing parents can do is to help their child calm down. Strong emotions can cloud our judgment and cause us to be shortsighted when looking for solutions, so the primary objective in stress management is to try to relax. Winding down can be a difficult process for some children, especially during particularly challenging situations. In some cases, relaxation techniques (like breathing exercises) are a great place to start. In other situations, stepping away from the problem for a period of time is the best solution. Parents should help walk their kids through the techniques that will best help them to relax, as this is truly the most important part of stress management. Trying to approach a problem in a heightened emotional state can lead to cognitive distortions like overgeneralizing and comparing ourselves to others. So before finding a solution, take a breather!
Ask them for hypothetical solutions. In other words, ask your child to start brainstorming solutions, even if they aren’t completely realistic. The reason for this is because students often have trouble identifying the true cause of their stress, and framing the question in this way can help get to the root of what’s causing those feelings (and hopefully provide a stepping stone towards a solution). Sometimes, we like to refer to this as the “magic wand” technique – parents can ask, “If you had a magic wand, what would fix this problem?”
Let’s say a student receives a low grade on a math test they studied hard for. They thought they knew the material, but a series of small procedural errors resulted in them getting incorrect final answers for the majority of the questions. The student now feels like they will never be able to bring their grade back up. Let’s say we ask them the hypothetical question – “If you had a magic wand, what would solve this for you?”
If they are feeling particularly frustrated or hopeless, your child may respond with an unrealistic answer – which is completely okay! Let’s say the student says, “I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and redo the test without making those silly mistakes.” Even though this sounds ridiculous, this is a great starting point for brainstorming real solutions. This is where parents can help provide a sense of clarity! Although going back in time certainly isn’t possible, here are a few alternative solutions that parents could respond with:
- “Let’s reach out to your teacher and see if there’s a way you can retake the exam for a chance to raise your score.”
- “Let’s ask your teacher if they offer any extra credit opportunities that can help raise your grade in the class.”
In many cases, you’ll be able to find a solution that is reasonable and approachable. And if you can’t, that’s fine too! Sometimes there isn’t going to be an immediate fix, and the best thing to do is remind ourselves that stress can be an incredible motivational tool. In the above example, the student’s teacher could very well tell them they cannot retake the test, and extra credit isn’t offered in their class. Does that mean the student should give up? Of course not! They should try their best to learn from their mistakes, and approach the next exam keeping in mind which errors to avoid. To learn more about how stress can actually be a helpful tool, check out our blog “Good Stress Vs. Bad Stress: How To Know The Difference.”