Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Burnout in Students: Spotting the Signs and Avoiding the Dangers


Pixabay (CC0 Licence)

We sometimes forget it as adults, but being a child is hard. It’s easy to look at the life kids have, or the one you had when you were younger, and think that you’d trade places in a heartbeat, but don’t forget - you have years’ worth of knowledge and experience that means you can see their problems as being minor. They are facing those problems for the first time, and it’s scary. So while a grown-up may hear of kids or teens experiencing burnout and react with cynicism, it’s important to recognize that it’s a real problem - and to know how to handle it.

What is burnout?

In the simplest sense, burnout is a form of acute exhaustion that results from excessive levels of demand placed on a person. In a younger person, this will most often be related to education and is particularly common around the time of exams and college applications.

What does burnout look like in a child or teen?

As the explanation above states, burnout is a form of exhaustion, primarily emotional, and if you are looking for warning signs then the most recognizable one will be a child who is more than usually withdrawn around the time of specific educational milestones. The signs are often analogous to depression and anxiety - so a lack of motivation in the things that they are normally enthusiastic about is a common sign, as are mood swings and tension.

Who is most likely to experience burnout?

Burnout can affect anyone; it is a particularly situational condition, so it is more a case of “when” and “how” than “who.” However, it is fair to say that kids who are educationally driven are more at risk. Teachers working for Teach for America might be particularly likely to see signs in kids who are particularly gifted and who feel they have to succeed for the sake of their families. In more exclusive schools, it may be particularly prominent in kids with high-achieving siblings or parents.

What can you do to prevent burnout?

Kids who are prone to burnout, and who show early signs of it such as excessive tiredness, loss of focus, or reporting physical ailments, need to be treated with care. Commonly, they will be subjecting themselves to excess pressure out of a desire to please adults who have high expectations of them - so make it clear that grades are not the be-all and end-all. Also, try to communicate to them that too much work can actually detrimentally affect their results, so scheduling in some relaxation, self-care, and simple fun is essential.

What should you do if it’s already gone too far?

While it is important to recognize that adolescent stresses are every bit as real as adult ones, there is a benefit to the younger age of kids with burnout. If the condition hits and affects them at school or at home, the fact is that they are still young, and they have plenty more chances to get things right. This can mean sitting make-up tests or doing other work for extra credit, or it can simply mean impressing upon them what’s really important - which is that a balanced, healthy life will always matter more than grades, and success in life comes from more than educational attainment.

Burnout can affect anyone at any age, and it’s essential to take the signs seriously. Try to keep kids focused on realistic goals and don’t let them define their entire lives by test scores.

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