Kids must learn to handle Stress for a Good life… 7 ways to help them

Stress is a reality of modern day schools. It is affecting your kids everyday life and yours by extension. Maybe they are anxious, withdrawn and sad…. or perhaps grumpy, moody and testy.

The point is you need to change tact and fast.

If you help correctly now, they are set up for life. They will be the kind of person who can deal with difficult situations. They will welcome challenges because they know they can deal with them. They will chase their dreams rather than hide away in the shadows.

Assuming your child is capable of accessing the subjects, follow these steps and you can make this a reality. The habits you set now will stay with them for the rest of their adult lives.


What is going on in their life? Provide a supportive and empathetic ear for them. They can express their concerns and feelings. If they are stressed a good line is “we don’t have to solve this all at once. I am always here to talk.” Just being there speaks louder than words sometimes.

Having a weekly check-in is ideal. Talk during the good times and the bad.

Build the house while the sun is shining, so when the rain comes you are in good shape.


Teach them how to act if things seem to be getting too much.

Make sure they are rooted in the ground, straight back, deep breaths (in and out on a four count). Focus on things in the room. They can keep doing this until they feel relaxed.

Maybe pick up your pen and play with it! Think the five senses.

Anything to remind them where they are. There are no threats in the room. It is in your head.

(If someone is experiencing a panic attack, refocus them on the room. Use any object and make them focus on it.)


I love the example of a fizzy bottle of pop.

If I shake it loads and open it, what happens? It explodes.

How can I stop myself getting drenched? Open the lid slowly, little by little.

This is what happens when we are in stressful situations. If we don’t manage it, we explode. Best to play sport, take breaks, socialise …etc. otherwise we explode.

If we fail to manage our stress we may need to take a week off school which is bad for progress. Better take time for self-care to avoid this.

Find out what the kid likes. Get them to schedule ONE THING weekly and make sure they go. Make sure they take breaks with their work.

Get the kid into the habit. When stress comes, I protect myself with exercise, friends, family, art…etc.


The Key ideas kids need to understand:

  • How to create a daily to-do-list. Ideally from overarching weekly goals.
  • How to use short bursts of work (search pomodoro technique).
  • How to take breaks.

The key here is to be detailed with each step. These skills will serve them for the rest of their lives.

Details matter. For breaks, no phones or screens! Technology is a sinkhole for our attention. It will be dark before they start working again. Rather pick something that is fun and allows them to take a mental break but is easy enough to stop.

Set a timer. The break should be no longer than 5-10 minutes.

I learnt juggling and handstands during my GCSEs.

For to-do lists make sure they realise people often have to be flexible with a schedule. If something goes wrong in the morning, you can make up for it. The key is to keep coming back and being consistent.


Exams are stressful experiences. I hear many people talk about abolishing them, but this would be robbing kids of the opportunity to grow. Stress and how we respond shape who we become.

If we learn bad habits during GCSEs this can be hugely formative.

On the other end, if we learn that we can cope, it opens up a world of possibilities.

If I can do this hard thing, what else can I do?

As a boxer, I feared getting in the ring to fight. I had been training for 2 years before I tried it. Once I eventually tried it and got punched in the face, I realised I could withstand punches. Now, every week I spar. I learn more in these sessions than I ever could hitting the heavy bag. Stress doesn’t have to break us.


If a kid trusts and respects you, they will listen to your advice and reach out for help.

Ways trust grows are obvious. There is no substitute for time (see point 1). Kids need to see you keep your word. You have looked out for them in the past. When nobody else was in the room, you were there.

Listening and spending time with them matters more than any gift you can buy. Don’t get too hung up on the marks either, notice their effort and habits. The rest will come.

To repeat, stress and how we deal with it shapes who we become. It is a necessary part of life.

There are far scarier beasts out there than GCSEs. These are generally good standards for whatever life throws at us though. Life is not always sunshine and rainbows, but we are pretty resilient – us humans.

I have written a guide to deal specifically with Maths Anxiety. Check it out.

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