The Rising Issue of Student Stress in Schools


Stress is an increasing problem not only for adults, but it’s becoming even more common with younger children and youth in our schools. Although stress may manifest itself differently for children than for adults, either way, stress can have harmful effects if not managed well.

According to the American Psychological Association, in a survey conducted in 2010, almost a third of children reported having stress issues with physical health symptoms in the last month, including headaches, stomach aches, and issues falling or staying asleep.

Often parents don’t realize how their own stress affects their kids. While 69% of parents say their stress has only a slight or no impact on their children, on the contrary, only 14% of youth say their parents’ stress doesn’t bother them (APA, 2011). In other words, stress doesn’t only affect the person who is stressed, but it also can affect those closest to them.

So, let’s take a look at some of the most common stress issues that our children are facing on a daily basis in our schools and families.

Causes & Symptoms of Stress

When considering the causes, there are a myriad of reasons for stress, ranging from family, social, and school issues.  Additionally, some degree of stress is perfectly normal and symptoms can be both physical or mental.

Physical symptoms include headaches, fatigue, erratic sleeping, nervousness, excessive sweating, lack of appetite,  to mention just a few. Mental symptoms include a lack of motivation/apathy, a feeling of helplessness or irritation. However, when it manifests into more significant symptoms, especially physiological effects, long term effects may come into play, such as mental health and physical health problems (i.e. high blood pressure, depression).

Symptoms of Stress in Schools

Detecting symptoms within both home and school settings have become even more critical because mental stress and anxiety are often harder to monitor, detect, and manage, especially when compared to physical stress.

This has a profound implication that schools have an important role to promote a positive learning environment to help reduce stress for the students they serve.

All too often teachers feel pressured because they aren’t trained as social workers, psychologists, or therapists, but they are increasingly expected to fill those roles. Teachers surveyed also said that fragmented home-lives, family break-ups, and social media are major factors contributing to students’ mental distress. Almost 73% of the teachers surveyed said that “young students are under more stress than 2 years ago” (Burns, 2016).

Therefore, teachers and guidance counselors may be faced with more and more students dealing with increased issues of stress for many different reasons. The sad reality is that often, parents, families, and other educational professionals, are ill-equipped to deal with the onset of increased incidents and cases that have been on the rise.

Toxic Stress

There has been extensive biological research that shows that chronic and severe stress can become toxic to developing brains in young children.  Factors include poverty, neglect, violent home environments, substance abuse or mental issues from caregivers. Sadly, toxic stress has become a very serious problem and children that suffer from it are at risk for long term physical and mental health effects.  Essentially, children are not equipped with the appropriate coping and stress management skills and if not addressed, leads to risk for mental health issues and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

So why is it mentioned here?  Interactions between children and their school and home environments have long-term learning, behavior and health effects.  Stress can be positive, tolerable or toxic and it’s important to ensure stress dominates as primarily positive and/or tolerable.

The call to action must be to help students identify their own stressors and help intervene before it’s too late, both from a school perspective and a parent perspective, to better equip parents as well.  Proactive steps must not only include the recognition of signs of stress in youth but more importantly, educating and providing support for staff/personnel, students, as well as to their families and the extended community.

Here are courses which Teach & Kids Learns (TKL) can provide educators in helping to prevent the factors which enhance stress for our school children.

  1. An Introduction to Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
  2. Anti-Bullying: Guiding Girls Through Relational Aggression
  3. Classroom Management Keeping it Positive (Elementary)
  4. Classroom Management: Keeping it Positive (Secondary)
  5. Developing Student Self-Awareness and Self-Management
  6. Digging Deeper into Social Emotional Learning
  7. Effective Survival Skills for Student Empowerment
  8. Engaging Parents In Support of Student Learning
  9. Setting Up Your Classroom for Positive Management