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How Can I Help My Child Relieve Academic Stress?

stressed out student

In our previous blog, we talked about how your student may be anxious or stressed regarding their academic experience. The origins of this stress can vary, but often are rooted in negative coping skills or unrealistic expectations that they are setting on themselves. To refer back to the previous blog post, click here. In today’s blog, we will discuss how parents can positively impact this pattern of thinking or behavior- how can we help our children to not be so stressed about school? Here are a few tools.

  1. Be mindful of what we praise. 

Students usually report having an extrinsic motivator for what makes them feel “successful.” They are usually looking for an outcome or a grade as an indicator that they are successful. This naturally can happen, as teachers and peers are talking about the outcomes. However as parents, we want to be mindful that we are talking less about the outcomes and more about the process. What did you see your child do to get the grade that you can praise? Did you notice them establishing and following a really good routine for studying? Did you notice them self start and ask a teacher for extra help? Did you notice them pay extra care and attention to assignments? These are all equally as important, if not more, as the “outcome.” Watching what we praise can help reinforce the idea that the motivation can be in the process, not the outcomes. Outcomes and grades are sure to let us down now and then, but we can teach and show our students that the process never has to change, as it is up to them! 

  1. Be mindful of how we highlight the achievements of others. 

It’s just a fact that kids want to make their parents happy. Whether they verbally admit it or not, they are seeking the approval and praise of the adults in their lives. The sense of identity and value in childhood is thought to be directly tied to the praise of adults. So while we need to be very mindful of what we praise, we also have to be mindful of how we speak of the success of others. If we choose to highlight the outcomes and successes of others, be it peers, friends, or people we vaguely know, our children can take on the nonverbal messaging that we would prefer them to behave or perform like those people as well. For example, if a peer at school has gotten into a higher level class, and it is brought up at home in conversation, a child might assume that they should’ve gotten into that class as well to make their parents proud. Rather than highlighting the outcome for that person, highlight the process and work they had to do to achieve the outcome. 

  1. Comfortably acknowledge lower scores, too. 

When a student does score lower than desirable, what are the parents doing with that information? While you may choose to ignore the grade, the silence still speaks to the child. Whenever positive grades are spoken about, but not as desirable grades, this creates a feeling of shame around the grade. This can negatively impact self -esteem and tie into the feeling that outcomes are what deserve praise. While unexpected grades don’t necessarily deserve praise, we can reframe the conversation around them. Ask your student about the low score. See if you can help them unravel the process behind what they did to get the lower score. What was different about that process compared to the times the grades have been higher? Get them thinking and self reflecting about their processes, and this can help navigate a conversation that is motivating, but not shame spiraling. 

  1. Avoid making decisions just to get into college. 

The phrasing “make sure you do _______ so that it can look good for college,” or anything like this can be harmful to your student. While there is a time and place to talk about resume building, these phrases and conversations can put fear into your student that if they do not do x, y, or z, that they will look “less than” or “undesirable” for universities. Make sure that the decisions you are making regarding college will bring value outside of an establishment’s or individual’s perception and opinion of them. As adults, we would red flag someone for doing something just for the approval of others. However, this is the messaging that can be tied to the conversations we are having around college admissions if we are not careful. 

All in all, make sure that as parents, we are valuing their development as a person and holistically, rather than pushing the outcome and grades. When students start to see that these core values are being pushed and prioritized in their home, they will start to let some of the pressure go surrounding academics. Furthermore, any pressure that they do put on themselves still, can be about processes and discipline regarding grades, not the outcomes. 

If this blog resonates with you, we may be able to help. Our services at WeThrive Learning are for the whole family! We can sit down and talk about more of these instances where you can help alleviate your child’s struggles and anxiety or stress surrounding their academics. To book a free call today, click this link! Watch your child grow and transform with WeThrive Learning. 


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