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Why Does My Child Get So Stressed About School?

stressed out student

Does your child stress about grades? Maybe even good ones? Do they display perfectionist tendencies and panic about getting the right outcome when it comes to their academics? If so, they may be an overachieving child. Society tends to think of being an overachiever as a good thing, meaning the individual will work harder, stay longer, and achieve more results. However, when it comes to brain development and connection, these overachieving individuals have a more negative impact.  In this blog, we will go over a few of the negative impacts that tend to accompany an overachieving student. But first, let’s talk about where this mindset comes from. 

Environment and Influences 

While some students are genetically wired to be high achievers, others absorb pressure (real or imagined) from their environments. For instance, if your child is a part of a gifted and talented classroom, there will be more rigor in the classroom, which can create raised expectations and fuel performance based results. If your child is in a competitive schooling system, where academic excellence is pushed forward in the vision, that can also create an ideal that grades are the most important part of academics. Likewise, if your child has friends that are also high achievers, grades and assignments can become a part of the small talk at lunch or after school, which further adds to the pressure. Environment and influences can also be at home. If a sibling, parent, or other relative is a high achiever at work or they are career driven, this can create an environment where that type of mindset is expected. Parents also can model this system for their children. 

Potential Outcomes of High Achievers

Though a good grade is a positive outcome, chances are the negative impacts are more likely to encompass your high achieving child. The stress hormones and signals are likely to negatively impact your child in the following possible ways: 

  • Negative Coping Strategies: When your child is getting messages of approval for good grades and performance in school, their brain is sending messages that this is worthy of praise. And while it is, sometimes this can go too far. If the messages of praise and approval are not balanced with other aspects than academics, they can rely solely on these people pleasing tendencies to gather praise. This pattern of behavior can lead to future unhealthy coping mechanisms in life as well as people pleasing tendencies in adulthood. They can also contribute to further anxiety and worry cycles, and even feelings of depression. 

  • Lack of Sleep: Perhaps the most impactful on brain development is the lack of sleep that high achievers seem to have. Research recommends that teens (12-18 year olds) need eight to ten hours a night, and often our children are getting half of that on average. This lack of sleep can cause irritability, lack of focus, delayed or increased hormones, and negatively impact academics, which creates more of a vicious cycle for high achieving students in the long run. If your child is not getting enough sleep, they cannot put their best foot forward. 

  • Catastrophizing Thought Processes: Once an individual connects praise with academic success, they label their achievements as rewarding. It can then often feel to the individual that if they do not live up to the standard, they will fail or bring catastrophe to themselves. This type of mentality can lead to catastrophizing thought processes, which is characteristic of those with anxiety and depression. These thought processes can be damaging to brain development. 

While overachievers usually pull good results in school, their development can be impacted heavily by the stress and pressure that is perceived. Brain development is crucial at the high school level, and important patterns are being created about the world. Therefore, these high achievers can be making lasting patterns within their thought processes if they are not careful. So, what do we do about this as parents and educators? WeThrive Learning and other educational therapists can be helpful in this effort, as they teach and educate parents on how to set up a routine within the home that promotes a healthy development and creates boundaries and conversations about academic success and performance. Come back to next week’s blog to learn more about the exact steps that we can take to mitigate these mindsets within our students.

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