Spotting school stress

Schoolgirl with backpack walking

Exam season is here, and if your child is knee-deep in their revision you’ll know what a hectic time of year it can be. While the pressure of exams can be positive and motivating, for some it is overwhelming and leads to stress. This blog explores stress in childhood and looks at how you can spot if your child is struggling.

What is stress?

Stress can be hard to define; most of us feel under pressure for some reason from time to time. Problems begin when we’re no longer able to cope with the pressure we’re under. Experiencing stress for a long period of time can lead to a range of problems, such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

Stress in childhood

Stress is something we tend to associate with adulthood, arising from things like financial difficulties and work-related pressures. But children are also at risk of stress, and it can lead to the same serious problems outlined above. Up to three in 10 people experience some sort of anxiety problem during childhood or adolescence. This can affect things like educational achievement and social life, and make someone more vulnerable to mental health problems in adulthood. So stress in childhood can be damaging in the long term.

The role of school in childhood stress

School is an environment where children can be exposed to various pressures. As well as academic expectations, there are also social pressures from peers. In a 2013 survey carried out by YouGov and the charity MindFull, more than half of those who’d experienced low mood during childhood said this was linked to stress at school.

Exam season is a time when the academic pressure ramps up. Your child will be busier than usual, have very defined targets, and may feel that their futures depend on meeting these targets. It’s no wonder they may be particularly prone to stress. In fact, exam-related stress is one of the top five most common causes of stress-related illness in the UK.

How can I help?

If your child tells you directly that they can’t cope with the pressure they’re under, it’s easier for you to respond to their needs and support them. However, they may keep their feelings bottled up, especially if they’re particularly focused on their exams. There are some symptoms of long-term stress that may help you to notice if your child is struggling. These include:

  • mood swings
  • poor concentration or memory
  • feeling tired or lethargic
  • changes in appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • headaches

If you think your child is suffering from stress, it’s important to try and speak about it with them. This may not be easy for you or for them, but it’s important that they can discuss any problems openly with someone they trust. During these conversations, remain as reassuring and supportive as possible, rather than adding to the pressure your child feels under.

You know your child best, so you’ll have a good idea of how to help them with any problems. However, there are sources of support out there, for both you and your child.

For you

For your child

Here at Bupa we understand how important your family is. So with our family health insurance you can rest assured knowing that eligible treatment and support is available for your loved ones when you need it.

Mental Health Nurse at Bupa UK

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