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If you’re a teacher, you know that a good work-life balance is a requirement.

After all, if you don’t balance out those long days in the classroom with a little me-time, it’s easy to burn out quickly. But when it comes to the kids we teach, do we offer the same need to support their mental health? With school often requiring 24/7 focus and little time left aside for them to be themselves, it’s no surprise that students – especially teenagers – get stressed and burnt out precisely the same way adults do.

As an educator, are you doing enough to advocate for the mental health of your students? Prolonged stress and pressure on teenagers and younger children can lead to:

  • Anxiety and anxiety-related behavior such as panic attacks, overthinking, and fear of falling behind
  • Depression and lethargy resulted in worse grades and problems with school and life later on
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideas as a result of pressure and requirements both in and outside of school

Taking those first steps into providing support for students can make all the difference to their mental health. Having a good understanding of those underlying causes and how they can be managed is even more effective. Here are just a few tips for how you can effectively advocate for the children under your care in the classroom:

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Encourage open communication

Many teachers and parents brush off the thought of children experiencing stress and anxiety – the real world is far harsher. But those emotions and that stress are genuine, and talking about and normalizing feeling those ways to children can help a little in taking the pressure off and permitting them to have bad days.

Directly talking and communicating about mental health can be incredibly invaluable to show you’re on your students’ side when they struggle to cope. An open conversation about mental health has proved invaluable for health in the workplace, and the same concept applies here. Particularly with teenagers, providing that openness can make all the difference in a time that can feel very isolating.

Improve organization

As such a controlled and standardized form of learning, the school has highly specific requirements that all students must meet to succeed. This way of living can be highly stressful for students who struggle with time management or being organized, whether through personality or even learning difficulties. Taking the time with your class to organize and manage their time for assignments and projects can provide a little more breathing room.

Giving them the bigger picture helps to show students that there’s no need to rush projects on the last day when there’s an opportunity to spread work out over the next few weeks to stave away stress and reduce that pressure. By providing those tools, students can dissipate that pressure and break everything down into something more achievable.

Take time outside the box

While it may seem counter-productive to spend valuable learning time outside the classroom, granting that five minutes of freedom is more valuable than you might think, it’s been proven that time outside, as well as time to stretch your legs and exercise, is fantastic for improving mental health and stress.

So why not spend those few minutes for such excellent benefits in the long run? More balanced students are more likely to succeed if they’re willing to put in the time and effort. You can also advocate for students to spend more time outside at home, even if it’s just a half-hour a day, away from phones and other technology to put everything into perspective.

Focus on work/life balance

We all know what burnout feels like. Kids get burnout too, and piling more work on them can only worsen the situation. In addition to traditional homework assignments, consider assigning a ‘night off’ for homework or a requirement to help around the house or do 20 minutes of exercise. Alternatively, teachers can advocate the mental health of their students to parents by directly providing information and guidance to help them improve balance at home and school.

A happy child has a little more freedom, and time with their families can help provide that balance. Even suggesting one night off a week from electronics in the home could offer your students that extra bit of ‘home’ to counteract the ‘school’ in their lives.

How do you advocate for the mental health of your students?