Welcome to part 2 of my blog series on coping with exam stress. We have already explored how there is a huge amount of stress based around education and that as a nation we are looking for solutions in part 1. This blog post explores what is stress, what does child stress look like and how can you tell if your child is stressed.
We all get stressed and stress is a normal reaction where changes in the body occur. Stress is from a flight or fight response – where we challenge or run away from a perceived threat. Our body releases cortisol and adrenaline. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated, ready to avoid danger but for many of us too much stress can be negative and affect our performance. Stress can be caused by changes (e.g. physical, mental or emotional).
It is not only adults that get stressed, children can also feel the pressure. One of the biggest stress factors for children is school or academia. Many children and young people experience a fear of failure, the feeling that they won't achieve and even that adults or peers will laugh at them. Additionally, in recent years there has been much talk of the academic increased demands placed on children as stressing them out. In 2018, a NEU survey showed that 9 out of 10 teachers felt SATs were detrimental to children's wellbeing. Exams can be stressful. Other academic stress factors include social pressure (the desire to fit in and be popular) and uncertainties about the future (what they are going to do when they grow up).
Another factor of stress for children can be family life, including conversations, parental divorce, side jobs and even feeling parents’ anxieties (e.g. work and financial pressures). For toddlers they can feel separation anxiety when separated from a parent (e.g. when they start play group).
So how can you tell if your child is stressed?
There are many different reactions to stress. Some common signs including short-term behaviours, such as bed wetting, mood swings, acting out and changes to sleep patterns. Children may also have physical reactions, such as headaches, upset stomachs, tiredness. Additionally, you may want to watch your child's mood. Notice if they are anxious, depressed, finding it difficult to concentrate, are doubting their abilities or blaming and punishing others. Younger children may develop habits such as thumb sucking, hair twirling or picking their nose and older children may begin to lie, bully or defy authority.
In the next blog post we will explore ways to manage and reduce stress, particularly around exams, including how getting a tutor can destress your child.
If you're looking for a tutor contact RK Tutors.