How to Help IB Diploma Students Manage Stress: A Guide for Parents

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How to Help IB Diploma Students Manage Stress: A Guide for Parents

The world’s best universities recognise and respect the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP). The breadth and depth of knowledge this

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The world’s best universities recognise and respect the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP). The breadth and depth of knowledge this rigorous curriculum imparts ensures IB DP completers have the capacity and skills to excel in university.

Is your child enrolled in one of the IB schools in Abu Dhabi? Read on for some practical tips on how you can help your child manage academic stress.

Talk and listen to your child.

Verbally expressing problems, concerns, and feelings (particularly negative ones) is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress. By listening to your child, you will help them to feel better about any worries they may be having. You can also offer advice to help them to resolve the issues.

The following are practical tips you can follow to communicate with your children effectively.

1.     Make conversations a habit.

Set aside a specific time each day, perhaps during dinner or before bedtime, to discuss the day’s events. You can talk about anything and everything, even mundane things. This makes conversation a habit in your household instead of an exception.

You must also contribute to the dialogue by talking about your own day, feelings and concerns, filtered for age-appropriateness, of course. By opening up to your child, you encourage them to open up to you and it builds a relationship of trust between you both.

2.     Create a safe space for expression.

Let your child know they can speak without judgement. When your child talks, listen and let them say whatever is on their mind. Even if you don’t agree or believe you have the answer, do not interrupt their narrative.

Once your child has finished telling you what they wanted to say, do not start offering solutions immediately. Rather than jumping into fix-it mode, ask, “Would you like advice, or did you just need someone to listen?”

Sometimes, your child just needs to vent to feel better.

3.     Ask open-ended questions.

Instead of asking your child questions they can answer with a yes or no (e.g., ‘Are you okay?’), pose open-ended queries that require elaboration. The following are examples:

  • What happened today?
  • Why did you do that?
  • Why do you think they did that?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What happened next?

Open-ended questions encourage narration and introspection. Arriving at an answer can help your child clarify what they honestly think and feel about something.

4.     Limit distractions.

Hold your conversation in a quiet space. It doesn’t have to be the study; it can be the kitchen counter, dining table or living room.

However, wherever you decide to have your talk, make sure there are no distractions like a blaring television. This will enable you to give each other your undivided attention.

5.     Practise active listening.

Show genuine interest in what your child is saying. Nod occasionally, maintain eye contact and validate their feelings with statements like, “That must have been tough for you.”

Encourage them to practise mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a methodology that helps individuals to relieve and prevent stress through a variety of methods.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says mindfulness is ‘awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings’. It is training your attention on or bringing your full attention to bear on what is around you and what you’re thinking and feeling, both emotionally and sensorially. It’s observing your surroundings, thoughts and feelings without judgement and without reacting to them. The practice regulates the nervous system.

Teach your child mindfulness exercises that they can use to transition from worried to calm, from stressed to relaxed and from burnt-out to energised. Use the following tips as a guide to getting your child started with mindfulness.

1.     Schedule mindfulness meditation sessions.

Set aside a particular time in the day when you and your child will do mindfulness exercises together. This helps turn mindfulness meditation into a habit.

2.     Practice mindfulness together.

Join your child and guide them in mindfulness meditation until they can do the exercises independently. Of course, even then, you can still meditate together; it can be an excellent bonding activity for you and your child.

3.     Start with short sessions.

Start with two- to five-minute mindfulness exercises to ensure your child remains engaged and does not become restless. Over time, as they become more accustomed, you can gradually extend the duration.

4.     Be patient.

At first, your child may not show interest in mindfulness activities. Even so, be patient and continue introducing the exercises, ensuring the time you spend practising mindfulness remains a positive experience for them.

5.     Lead by example.

Children often emulate adults. Make mindfulness a part of your routine.

When you’re stressed, do mindfulness exercises, and do it openly. Practise mindfulness meditation even outside the schedule you set.

By doing this, you can demonstrate its value and make your child more open to doing it whenever they need it.

Mindfulness Exercises

There are many different ways to practise mindfulness. Below are a few simple ones to help you get started.

1. Breathing exercise: The 4-7-8 technique is a good example. To carry out this technique you must inhale for four seconds, hold for seven and exhale for eight. Another exercise is inhaling through the nose for four seconds and exhaling through the mouth for another four seconds. Do these multiple times.

2. Guided imagery: Ask your child to imagine scenarios. Use those your child can easily relate to. Below is an example:

‘Imagine you’re a tree. Feel your roots extending down into the ground and your branches reaching up high into the sky. Feel one, two, and three birds berth on your branches. Hear them sing and feel the cadence of their songs. Feel the wind rustling your leaves.’

3. Look, hear and smell. Ask your child to find five things to look at and focus on. Zoom in on each one, one object at a time. Ask them to look at the object and describe in their mind its length, height, width, texture, and colour.

Next, ask them to watch out for five specific sounds. Tuning into each one, one at a time, identify the sound, describe it and determine where it’s coming from.

Finally, ask your child to take deep breaths through the nose to find five distinct smells. Identify, describe and discern the source of each one.

Seek support from the school.

Managing your child’s stress is a responsibility best shared. Finding a school with extensive and active student support services should be a priority, even when choosing a kindergarten in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or elsewhere.

Talk to your child’s teacher and school counsellor. The  teacher can shed light on what might be causing your child stress. Meanwhile, the school counsellor can devise a plan you and the school may implement together to help your child manage their stress better.

Help your child manage stress.

Communication, mindfulness and collaboration with your child’s school can help your child manage stress. Talk to a professional, including your child’s school counsellor, to learn more strategies.