This time last year, I identified the common back-to-school stress anxiety as an annual challenge for parents in households of school-age children.
However, the reaction of some children to the prospect of a new school term can often be traced to a personal experience, sometimes quite obscure.
In Canada, I once knew a young schoolboy, Sammy, who was somewhat small for his age and who became frightened and withdrawn after watching an ice-hockey match, where another small classmate was knocked backwards on to the ice by two much bigger boys, and spent the rest of that term on crutches.
By the time Sammy himself moved into the age-group for ice-hockey, he was dreading it, and I wondered if his mother was going to call on my counselling skills. Fortunately he chose that short period to grow about 12 centimetres in just one summer, and the problem resolved itself!
Another case originally had me baffled. An eight-year-old boy, Rashid, was due to move up into a form that occupied a classroom with a huge abstract sculpture that looked like a dragon.
One of the teachers jokingly pretended that whoever ended the term as bottom of the class would be eaten up by this terrible dragon. Rashid could not get this out of his mind, but was afraid to tell anyone, for fear of looking silly. So he kept it to himself, and the anxiety began to affect him badly. It took me three counselling sessions to identify the cause of his fear, and to explain how it was unfounded.
Back-to-school stress in very young pupils may stem from all manner of causes that have little relationship to the obvious challenges to their talent.
In the case of older school students, the most usual cause of anxiety is those all-important examinations.
You may remember that I once described in this column, a hi-tech stress-relief aid that could soothe you into an optimal 20-minute power-nap inside a type of space-capsule and then woke you gently with a blend of lights and vibration. (First reports were impressive indeed.)
Now it seems that ‘do-it-yourself' stress relief may be on the way for school students, too.
One 16 year old was clearly taking his exams too seriously. In his experience, extra effort had always been rewarded with better exam results, and now at the crucial end-of-term examination time, he just couldn't relax. His mental dynamo kept turning far into the night, and his sleep-patterns were ruined. Unfortunately, so was his school performance.
Then someone told his mother about a portable hi-tech de-stressor, based simply on one pair of stereo headphones and ‘visual stimulation' glasses. The synchronised patterns of light and sound quickly induce a calm mental state that replicates meditation and helps you sleep soundly, as well as improving concentration and memory. It made all the difference.
- Children may have personalised reasons for dreading a new school
- Older students often face stress symptoms before important exams
- New hi-tech de-stressors are showing good early results
The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies - www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk