School stress: how to help your teen take the angst out of education

From exams to assignments and the pressure to get the right grades for tertiary study, school is stressful for teenagers. ERIN HARRISON went looking for ways you can help your teen find a balance.

Here are five simple, practical ways you can support your teen throughout the school year. 

Active listening is a valuable tool to have up your sleeve when met with an anxious teen. When they need your
help, try to switch off parent mode and let them vent, without offering advice, ideas or opinions. Giving them your full attention will help them feel heard and validated by you. Asking relevant questions will also encourage them to talk longer.  

Just like us, stressed teens can benefit from switching off devices and ensuring they get enough sleep. Of course, this is often easier said than done, but if you can model healthy behaviour and put in place some habits at home, they are more likely to follow your lead. Get out with them for some exercise, offer (mostly) healthy meals and snacks, and see if you can join in on anything they enjoy doing. You could also look into practising mindfulness and meditation together.

Although it may go against everything you’re supposed to do as a parent, why not let your teen in on the secret that school isn’t the be-all and end-all. Academia doesn’t suit everyone, and there can be many pathways to an exciting and fulfilling career. This approach is not about discouraging kids from doing well at school but rather reassuring them that not being top of the class is not the
end of the world.

This might be a tricky one but try to get some one-on-one time with your teen. Look for an activity that you both enjoy and use it as an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Rather than trying to guess what they’d like to do (and maybe missing the mark), why not ask them if there’s anywhere they want to go or a new hobby they’d like to try.

Remember that your teen may not have learnt skills like prioritisation and organisation. You can help by working together to make a to-do list, mark assignments on a wall planner and get involved (as much as they will let you) with sorting out their school schedule. This can help clarify what’s most important and minimise overwhelm if they can see when things are due and how much time they need to allocate to each task. Try to quickly check in with your teen each day to find out what went well and anything that’s coming up that they are worried about.