By Wendy Garvin Mayo
Helping our school-age children to develop goals and perform empowerment routines as they kick off the 2021-2022 academic year is going to be important to proactively manage stress. But are you ready to help them aim for their goals?
Despite the significant negative mental and physical impacts of stress on one’s overall wellbeing, we do not talk about it enough! It often is casually shared in colloquial conversation – “I am so stressed” – but rarely are strategies exchanged, plans developed, and little more than an occasional massage procured to combat it. And these conversations never reach our children who are asked to experience, learn, and be able to perform in new situations constantly as we poke and prod them into what we want them to be – perfect little adults.
But the past eighteen months of our lives have been overtaken by a global pandemic that few adults anticipated so assuredly our kids were not ready. Even before COVID-19, it was noted that stress manifests differently in individuals, especially children who may experience stomachaches as well as changes in their sleep, eating, and socialization patterns. But yet knowing this, we are now putting these same children back into classrooms, close contact activities, and large groupings throughout the school day? The many unknowns and uncertainties are precursors to Preschool-12 life stress.
Fortunately, the beginning of this new school year provides a great opportunity for parents to proactively discuss stress – and more importantly stress management – with their children. Having conversations that empower students to take A.I.M. on successful stress strategies could look something like this:
- Ask your child questions about her or his stress. Children have many things that they are thinking about as they anticipate restarting the school year and they are often aware of them all; ask so you can be too. Earnest and regular conversations about the things that stress your child– not things you think should be stressful to them – helps you to understand while also demonstrating your level of concern for your child’s wellbeing.
- Identify your child’s core and controllable stressors. Your child’s core stressors are those which transcend temperament and tie together fears; remembering all you have learned in life helps here. And equally applicable is whether your child and/or those in your child’s network can eliminate or mitigate aspects of the stressor, therefore, making it controllable.
- Make the micro shifts necessary to create comfort. Your child will make greater progress when he or she strategizes and engages in actions that push back against a stressor. These reaffirming movements should be routine.
Stress impacts the trajectory of a child’s success in school but children are resilient and courageous when they have support and tools to manage stressors. AIM is a way to start the conversation and develop routine check-ins to partner with your child to proactively manage stress.
 American Psychological Association (2019, September, 5). Identifying signs of stress in your children and teens. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/children
Written for The American Institute of Stress by Board-Certified Nurse Practitioner || Stress Solution Strategist || Author || International Speaker || Certified John Maxwell Coach & Trainer Wendy Garvin Mayo is the Founding CEO of The Stress Blueprint, creator of the Nurse Wellness Mentorship, host of the Nurse Wellness Podcast, and inventor of the SHAPE framework. Her mission is to empower nurses to manage stress so they can prioritize their well-being and quality of life while caring for others.
She has over 20 years of experience in healthcare in various nursing sectors such as clinical, leadership, research, academia, and pharmaceuticals.
Wendy serves as a member of The American Institute of Stress Daily Life & Workplace Stress board, advisor for the Johnson & Johnson nursing employee resource group, sits on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut League for Nursing, and President of Central Connecticut Oncology Nursing Society.