Stress can cause all sorts of problems for students returning to school. (Courtesy photo)
Stress can cause all sorts of problems for students returning to school. (Courtesy photo)
Stress can cause all sorts of problems for students returning to school. (Courtesy photo)

By Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Stressed-out students in England recently received a little help with their anxiety after school officials bought in several pooches in training to become guide dogs to help take the students’ mind off of deadlines and assessments.

Reportedly, officials said it’s been scientifically proven that puppies help to de-stress individuals.

While it’s unlikely that students locally will get puppy love, the beginning of a new school year often arrives with apprehension and a bit of anxiety – something with which educators in the Poconos and around the nation are well aware.

“We teach all seventh graders the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens’ based on Stephen Covey’s best-seller, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to help kids be proactive, put first things first and begin with the end in mind which is to develop a plan to tackle homework, study, chores and sports,” said John Bell, a school superintendent in Pennsylvania.

“We’ve had this in place for two years,” Bell said.

“We will be adding a high school component this year as part of a new course called ‘Freshmen Seminar’ which helps ninth graders learn to deal with the move to high school and all of the accompanying issues like stress, more homework, higher expectations in the classroom and more responsibility,” he said. When stress gets beyond normal levels or beyond the parental comfort level, a school counselor or child and adolescent psychiatrist should be consulted, said officials from the Health News Service Project which consists of 20 state-based medical and specialty associations and societies.

“Growing up can present many situations that are stressful to children,” said Dr. Robert E. Wilson, a member of the Health News Service Project.

“There is pressure on students to succeed or adapt to new situations,” Wilson said.

Often, events beyond the student’s control occur, such as bullying and unrealistic expectations for performance, can create undue stress and anxiety, he said.

“The key is to create an environment where children can ask questions, initiate a dialogue that addresses their anxiety and concerns and [allows them to] feel safe to interact with their peers, teachers, parents and the community in which they reside,” he said.

Kristen Lee Costa, a licensed social worker and the lead faculty for behavioral sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, said the transition back to school and during various juncture of the school year can be bumpy for many children.

“When apprehension intensifies, it can lead to anxiety and adjustment challenges. It’s important for parents and educators to be mindful that this type of stress can not only impede learning, but can also cause unhealthy emotions and behaviors,” said Costa, who authored the 2015 motivational book,“Reset: Make the Most of Your Stress.”

It’s important to help children learn how to focus on the positive, establish strong reuniting routines and rituals and realize that not all challenges are negative or bad,” Costa said.

So what can a parent do to contribute to their child’s personal and academic success?

Health News Service Project officials advocate looking for negative changes in the student’s health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings and to be aware of how a student may interact with others.

The organization suggests watching for overloading, helping students learn stress management skills and being supportive and to encourage involvement in sports and other pro-social activities.

Wilson also offered tips to help manage stress, including:

  • Get organized and take better control of the way your time and energy is spent.
  • Control who you surround yourself with and what you are surrounded by.
  • Give yourself positive feedback.
  • Reward yourself by planning leisure activities.
  • Exercise.
  • Get the right amount of rest. Eat right.

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