Kids are Stressed. Let’s Help them Cope.

Dr. Kara Stern
2 min read
Graphic person being stressed and black clouds.

I never went to school.

When I say never, I don’t actually mean never, but I do mean I rarely attended. It started young. In first grade, I believe I attended 18 days of school. My track record got better until 8th grade, when it went downhill again.

I had asthma, and got bronchitis multiple times a year, but it was more than that. The more I was absent from school, the harder it was to go back. The dread about returning felt worse than the sickness. Eventually, the dread about returning became the sickness. I can’t even complain about being bullied. I had friends, and I was good at school. I just somehow couldn’t face it.

I didn’t realize that school refusal was a thing until I was a principal, and had a child in the school who was consistently truant. All of a sudden, it felt familiar. I said to the child’s parents, “I think I understand what’s going on.”

Kids have a lot to be anxious about.

School refusal is not a disorder, it’s a symptom of anxiety. All of this to say that children express anxiety in all kinds of ways, expected and unexpected. These days, they have a lot to be anxious about. The recent focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) is giving students tools for understanding their feelings, and I hope that means, for many children, a more positive, less anxious, school experience.

SEL Day is coming up on March 26; in preparation, here’s a template filled with starter resources that I hope will be useful for you and your classroom or school community. It’s reassuring to know that even though I might not have gotten the helping hand that I once needed, a child in your class will.


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Dr. Kara Stern

Dr. Kara Stern began her career as an ELA teacher, then shifted into administration as a middle school principal. Dr. Stern is a fervent advocate for equitable communication and family engagement. She spent five years as Executive Director at Math for America, where she designed the professional learning community that exists to this day. An unexpected move to Tel Aviv launched her into the world of EdTech where she became the Director of Education Content for Smore and then the Head of Education Solutions at SchoolStatus. Outside of work, she indulges her love for reading, devouring two novels weekly, with a particular fondness for heists and spy stories.

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