Three Stress Relievers to Support Students

December can be festive for some, stressful for others, and a little bit of both for most students.

There is a ramp up in tests, papers and projects due before the holidays, while sports, play practice, jobs, etc., continue in full swing as before. Add to that the expectation that kids leave time for family holiday gatherings and gift shopping, as well as college applications for those seniors who are applying regular decision, and it’s understandable that our kids may be a bit fragile.

And who can blame them? There isn’t a lot of down time for our high schoolers these days. Students say they are feeling the pressure of needing to do well in school while also excelling in extracurricular activities in order to be attractive to colleges.

Despite the very real pressure our kids may feel, as parents, there are things we can do to help them keep things in perspective:

  • Emphasize the need for balance. Our students need to know that while we want them to work hard in school and engage in a meaningful activity or two, we also want them to enjoy their high school years (safely!).

    Remind them that they will still be able to go to college if their grades are not perfect and that they do not need to be involved in multiple activities just to pad their resumes. Encourage them to find something they love to do. That passion will be shared with colleges, many of which will be happy to hear about it, even if it is not a varsity sport, lead in the play or as a class officer.

    Not everyone is an academic superstar and there is a lot to be said for learning to find a balance between working to the best of your ability and leaving some room for other activities and down time. There are certainly many adults who have not learned this; it often catches up at some point.

    Some of our kids need help in finding that activity that they love and may need a push to try something through a club, volunteering or a solo project that inspires them. Spending time in an activity they love will often give them the energy needed to hang in there with school work that may be less enticing. And it will help them grow as a person and feel good about themselves.
     

  • Stay supportive. Keep in mind, as you get together with relatives and friends over the holidays, that some seniors will be beaming with pride having already been accepted to their dream school, while others still have months of uncertainty and angst ahead. 

    Still others have barely begun the process and are unsure if college is the right step for them at all. It’s good to remind these students that not everyone is ready to go off to a 4-year college right after high school. (And that is okay – they just need another solid plan in place)

    Try to find time when you and your child are both feeling relaxed to ask how they are doing and how you can help support them.
     

  • Encourage down time.  Plenty of sleep, along with time to relax, laugh and enjoy being a teen goes a long way toward making everything else fall into place. If your teen is too tightly scheduled, something may need to go.

    Finally, do be on the lookout for more serious signs that your child is dealing with a level of anxiety or depression that may require professional help. Winter and its associated decrease in sunshine can sometimes be a contributing factor (consider a vitamin D supplement if your doctor agrees).

All the best for a wonderful holiday season for you and your family!

Conversations to Avoid at the Holiday Table (in addition to politics!)

For students, Thanksgiving and the upcoming December holidays can be a nice break and a time to relax with extended family. 

But it can also be stressful for seniors, as they may have already applied to schools and are waiting to hear – or have not yet applied and have that hanging over them.
 
As some kids are starting to hear that they are accepted (or not) to their dream school, it can raise the stress level even higher. Keep that in mind as the relatives assemble. You may need to ask Uncle Fred to leave the subject of college out of his questions for your teen if the tension level is high.
 
It’s important to talk to your child and let them know that it will all work out fine, even if they don’t get into a school(s) that they had their heart set on. Try not to let yourself get too attached either to the idea of a particular school. That will come across to your child and will make it even harder if things do not go their way.

We need to encourage our kids to work as hard as they can in school, spend time on making decisions to apply to schools that are a good fit, and then know that it will all work out for the best.
 
It may be helpful (when the time is right) to share a story about yourself or another who didn’t get their first choice in buying a house, in landing a job, or getting accepted into the school of their choice, but … who looked back later, only to realize that their second was a better fit.
 
If your child gets disappointing news, it is good to empathize and let them have a chance to be sad. Then they may need some support to begin feeling good about Plan B. There are numerous great schools that will be a good fit for all our kids and it will be easier once your child begins to get excited about the next school on the list.
 
Most important, our kids should hear loud and clear that a rejection letter is not a commentary on them as a person. It is an opinion based on a paper record of their achievements. As wonderful as we all know our children to be, they simply may not have been what a particular school was looking for to round out its class in the coming year.
 
This is a good time to let our kids know that we think they are great, no matter where they go to college or whatever they choose to do after high school.
 
All the best for an enjoyable, healthy and relaxing break this week!