Nine ways you can help your child handle back to school stress

Is your child already stressing about returning to school after the holidays? Here are nine ways you can help them feel better.

Research by Wysa reveals that more than eight in 10 teenagers are experiencing mental health worries, with one in three needing professional support, according to standard screening. And worryingly, young people aren’t getting the help that they need.

More than half who scored three or more on Generalized Anxiety Disorder-2 and Patient Health Questionnaire-2 screening questionnaires for anxiety and depression haven’t spoken to a relevant professional about it.

Given that 69% of young people said that they are very worried about school work and exams, what can parents do to help their young people this September? 

Emma Taylor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Lead at Wysa, a leading AI mental health app that is clinically proven to reduce anxiety and depression shares her top tips.

1) Establish a routine

Help young people and teenagers create a structured daily routine that includes time for schoolwork, hobbies, exercise and physical activity, relaxation and seeing their friends. A consistent routine can provide a sense of stability and security, which is important for wellbeing as it can reduce anxiety.

2) Encourage a good nights’ sleep

Our work with schools in Scotland shows that one of the biggest stresses felt by seven in 10 young people is sleep. Either a lack of sleep is making them anxious and stressed, or stress, worry and anxiety is stopping them sleep.

Encourage young people to get a good night’s sleep by having a good routine, having down time before bed, and keeping busy in the day so that they get physically tired. Remind them that being well rested gives them the energy to do the great things they want to – sleep is cool.

You can read tips on getting your child back into a regular sleep routine after the summer break here.

3) Teach stress management techniques

One great way to relieve anxiety and stress is through grounding via mediation and mindfulness. Help young people and teenagers learn various stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or journaling. These techniques can provide them with effective tools to cope with stress and anxiety.

You can read advice on helping your child manage anxiety here.

4) Meet them where they are

Young people use their phones all the time. The Wysa Youth Report showed if teenagers had a free mental health app that you could talk to about their worries in confidence 78% would choose the app over a teacher.

Three in 10 say that they go to TikTok for support with mental health. Wysa is available to young people aged 13+, with tailored and personalised support that is works for teenagers.

5) Encourage open communication

Create an environment where young people feel comfortable expressing their feelings and concerns. Encourage them to talk about their experiences, anxieties, and challenges related to going back to school. Don’t dismiss their worries, but use active listening where you paraphrase what they have said, so that they feel heard.

6) Don’t make it all about academic performance

Raising the next generation is about supporting them to become well rounded individuals. Encourage them to do their homework and focus on school, but don’t make it all about getting top grades. In fact too much pressure can make younger people more anxious and stressed, resulting in performance decline.

7) Promote healthy lifestyle habits

Emphasise the importance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and sufficient sleep. These lifestyle factors play a crucial role in managing mental health and overall well-being. Cook with them and make tasty snacks that are easy to grab on the go.

8) Encourage social connections

Support young people in fostering positive social relationships with their friends, and help them meet new people. Encourage them to participate in activities that interest them, join clubs or sports teams, or engage in community events. Social connections provide support and a sense of belonging, and can boost confidence.

9) Teach problem-solving skills

Help young people develop problem-solving skills to address challenges they may encounter at school. Encourage them to break down problems into manageable steps, brainstorm solutions, and consider the potential outcomes of their decisions. Problem solving is one of the skills that CBT teaches, using critical thinking.

Wysa is being used by young people in West London via Hammersmith, West London & Fulham Mind, is available to students in Edinburgh schools, and is being rolled out in regions across the country.

Photo by kychan