How to Calm and Comfort a Stressed-Out Student
by Carol Chandler-Wood
Recently, a parent asked me what he could do to calm down his academically stressed-out daughter who cared almost too much about her school grades. This is a seldom asked question since usually parents ask for help with students who don’t care enough about their academics. Following is essentially the content of my response:
- Remind your student that if he/she has worked to the best of their ability and acted in a responsible way, then this is enough for you. Grades are not as important as effort and level of responsibility and accountability.
- Reassure them you are not disappointed in them if they have tried their best. You would be surprised how many students have cried in my office and confided in me that they are stressed because they do not want to disappoint their parents. Some students will even stop trying in school because they have come to believe that nothing they do is ever good enough for their mom or dad.
- Encourage your student to take a course load which aligns with his/her own academic and career goals and abilities. Have realistic expectations based on academic levels of achievement for your student.
- Remember, your children are different from you and it is important to accept, appreciate, and encourage their differences. Don’t force your interests on them, rather allow and encourage them to express and pursue of their own career interests and objectives. This will foster increased confidence, self-esteem, and motivation in your children.
- Assure your student that you are willing to locate a trained educational professional to teach him/her efficient and effective study skills methods, course content, or both; depending on what is warranted, if your student desires assistance. Doing so will send the message to your student that he/she is worth the investment of your time, energy, and money, if costs are associated.
- DO NOT compare your children to one another or to other students academically or in any other way. Rather, recognize them as the individuals they are and applaud their admirable and positive traits.
- Encourage your children to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses only in academic areas in which they excel and/or have the greatest interest. Additionally, encourage your student to take no more than two AP courses during any given semester. These are college level classes and can become an overwhelming source of stress for a high school student when trying to juggle the study demands, along with the time requirements of their other athletic and extracurricular activities.
Lastly, a few personal additional recommendations follow:
- Find activities for the family to participate in on weekends that provide fun and enjoyment for the entire family. Doing so will reinforce that family is important, enrich relationships with parents and siblings, and help put in perspective the balance between quality of life and character building and academics.
- Provide and support opportunities for the student to participate in some sort of physical exercise which will allow the student to reduce anxiety and increase endorphin levels. Also, provide and support opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, such as drama and art, since doing so can provide a therapeutic emotional outlet for students.
- Provide opportunities for your student to enrich and practice his/her faith. Doing so will help him/her keep their priorities in perspective and provide a source of strength, comfort, promise, and hope.