Is stress normal in middle school

Stolen childhood: it's all about school

Leonie never wants Mondays. "How am I supposed to do that? The day is so long," she complained on Sunday evening. The start of the school week often begins with tears, the stomach hurts, and sometimes the head.

Meeting girlfriends is a foreign word

Leonie is twelve and not a bad student. She is in the seventh grade of a Munich high school. Monday is her longest day of school. Lessons do not end for them until 3:45 p.m. After that, she's done, but there's no end in sight: homework and studying for the next day are on the program. "During the week she is usually busy with school from eight in the morning to eight in the evening, with short breaks," says Daniela Fuchs, Leonie's mother. But it's not done with that. Then there are the weekends. They are used to learn vocabulary, to study for exams and to prepare presentations. "I fight like a lioness to have a day off from school, but we don't always succeed. The high school is extremely stressful for our family," is Leonie's mother's conclusion. "Meeting girlfriends is a foreign concept. That only works on a Friday or on a weekend." The holidays only deserve this name to a limited extent, because class work is often on the program the week after. Really free, that's why the Fuchs family only offers this in summer. "We gave up going on vacation at Whitsun. I don't feel like sitting on the beach at 35 degrees and learning vocabulary with my daughter the way other parents do. It's not a vacation for me," says Daniela Fox.

Unconcentrated, nervous and over-the-top

As a study by the Forsa Institute shows, over half of parents find that schoolchildren today are exposed to high levels of stress that is harmful to their health. Parents stated that their child was unable to concentrate, nervous and overworked as a result of school stress. Almost half reported headaches and abdominal pain. 45 percent observe that the child becomes aggressive and 37 percent that the son or daughter is sad and withdraws. A quarter of parents say that their children no longer want to go to school. Ursula Stolberg-Neumann knows these developments from her daily work. The qualified psychologist and family therapist has been advising pupils, parents and teachers at the pedagogical-psychological information and advice center, pib for short, in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising for fourteen years. "For many high school students, the eight-hour day remains a dream. The stress at school has increased significantly. The eight-year high school (G8) made a significant contribution to this. Children who still had a chance at the G9 - perhaps with a repetition in the difficult years - fall through the grid in the G8. Even in elementary school, the stress intensified, even before there were any questions about transition ", is her observation. When students in Germany graduate from high school, their peers in most other countries have long been students or in vocational training. In order to make German students more competitive internationally, the nine-year grammar school has been shortened to eight years almost nationwide in recent years. Schleswig-Holstein aims to shorten the school time from the next school year. Rhineland-Palatinate wants to implement the G8 in conjunction with an all-day school initially only at selected grammar schools.

Same material, less time

Protests in response to the G8 and its implementation, which many consider to be immature. Parents and students complain about excessive workload and enormous pressure to perform. The main point of criticism is that mainly the material was condensed. This means that the learning workload is the same, only the time is less. "In fact, an all-day operation has been introduced without the necessary conditions being created," complains Isabell Zacharias, chairwoman of the Bavarian Parents' Association. "I cannot understand that there is not enough time for repetition in class. That the material can often not be explained in such a way that the students really understand it. Often there are still questions unanswered when the children come home," says Sonja Kugler , Mother of Hanna, sixth grader at a municipal high school in Munich. Hanna and Leonie are still lucky. Your parents can help, know the Latin ablative, the English if-sentence, know how to shorten fractions and can take the time to give hours of help in the afternoon. "We were told at the first parents' evening at the grammar school: Your child will not be able to do this without your help," remembers Daniela Fuchs. To what extent this would be necessary, however, she could not have imagined. Whether a regional studies lecture on Tunisia or the timely start of learning for the upcoming math work, she is in demand. "Nothing goes on for me in the afternoon except school," is her conclusion. "A limit has been crossed. It is certainly normal to accompany the child when changing schools, to help them cope with everyday school life, to show how I learn and organize. That is a supportive function of the parents, which I consider normal . But there is much more to it than that. " The chairman of the Bavarian Parents' Association also goes too far to the extent that school plans parents. Isabell Zacharias sees the main problem in the fact that children whose parents cannot provide this support have poorer educational opportunities. "How do parents react to the gaps that the lessons leave? They send their children to expensive tutoring institutes. Millions are spent on it every year, and that's a scandal, because you try to compensate for what the state can't do. That refuses I leave because it's a privilege for people who have money. Education has to be accessible to everyone and to the same extent, "she demands. More school stress and higher pressure to perform are reactions to the development of society. Jobs are rare and qualifications are in demand. As a result, the pressure to get a good qualification has grown at all types of schools. Over 75,000 students fell by the wayside last year. You left school without a degree. Numbers that scare parents. "Parents don't invent the pressure, they react to the job market. But they often pass the pressure on to their children," says graduate psychologist Ursula Stolberg-Neumann. And not just in secondary schools, but also in grades one to four.

Tears after a three

Elementary school teacher Evi Würfl from Germering in the Fürstenfeldbruck district teaches a fourth year. The year of the decision: Gymnasium, Realschule or Hauptschule? She is currently experiencing what all of her colleagues are observing. By Christmas at the latest, the serious side of life begins for the fourth graders. The pressure increases noticeably. The hot phase begins until the transfer certificate in May. "It really is the case that children break into tears at a three and think that now they have not made the transition," she explains. “What else can we practice?” The parents want to know. "Do you have any additional worksheets?" Ask your students. "It happens again and again in rehearsals that children stay below their capabilities because they put too much pressure on themselves. Often they don't read the task carefully." The pedagogue therefore advises: "Read slowly, make it clear to yourself what you have to do and underline what is important. It is better to start with what you are good at, it gives you security." Quite a few children receive tutoring regularly in the third and fourth grades. In order to advance the material for the main subjects, the elementary school teacher has to shorten many a music or art lesson. The criteria for transferring to grammar school vary from state to state. While in North Rhine-Westphalia it is ultimately the will of the parents that is decisive, in Bavaria an average of 2.33 from the subjects mathematics, German as well as local and regional studies is required for a problem-free transfer.

"Learn together longer"

Mathematician or bricklayer, biologist or office clerk, academic or unemployed? In most German federal states, sorting takes place at the age of ten. A fact that not only met with incredulous astonishment abroad, but also aroused more and more protests in this country. "It is absurd that we should decide for ten-year-olds what annual income they will have later," says the chairwoman of the Bavarian Parents' Association, Isabell Zacharias, and calls for an extension of the joint primary school years. Too much can still develop in the following years, and many a knot can still burst. Throughout Germany there are now some initiatives that want to encourage all children to learn together for a longer period of time based on the Scandinavian model, such as the Hamburg initiative "A school for everyone" or the cross-border initiative "Longer learning together". In the struggle for the right grades, the question of suitability easily fades into the background. "I would take it very seriously if a primary school teacher is in good contact with the children and advises against attending grammar school. As a rule, she knows the child's learning behavior well," is Ursula Stolberg-Neumann's experience. Because anyone who dares to make the leap to high school not only has to have the appropriate cognitive skills, but also be able to work in a structured and persistent manner. Parents should keep in touch with their child so that they know as well as possible the inclinations and talents, but also what their son or daughter is not yet able to do very well. Because only then can you decide together which path is the right one. "Parents should honestly ask themselves: To what extent does the child have to be as I imagine it to be, and to what extent can it be as it corresponds to him? And that can then mean that it may not go to high school after the fourth grade Who knows what will happen later. Of course, detours are time-consuming and require strength, but the result also has a hand and foot, "says the qualified psychologist. There are still opportunities later to obtain a higher education qualification, for example at a vocational school or at a technical college. Those who know about it can take the pressure off themselves.

"Children must be able to enjoy themselves"

Even if school has become the main topic in many families, there is one thing that parents should not forget, advises Ursula Stolberg-Neumann: "My child is not just a person who learns arithmetic, writing and specialist knowledge, but a being that has a lot to offer So don't say you can't go to the football club as long as you're writing your threesome, but see where my child is successful and happy about himself. Children and young people have to be happy about themselves. " Like Benedict. The 14-year-old is in the ninth grade of the grammar school in Dorfen, Upper Bavaria. When he's on the stage and slips into a role, he gives everything. Then he forgets that he has to cope with 34 hours of lessons per week, that French is troubling him, that there are two class tests to be done in the next week and that he will have to fight again this school year to make the transfer work. Then there is only his role and him. "It is enormous what he is ready to do there," says his mother Katharina Dötsch. "You can see what would be possible if school did it differently." Being active in the theater group at his school is important to him and offsets many a stressful day at school. Just like singing in the school choir. Many social contacts bring him his activities on top of that. "Schoolchildren not only have more and more stress, they also have fewer and fewer opportunities to compensate," is the experience of graduate psychologist Ursula Stolberg-Neumann. Because hobbies are usually canceled first when time is running out. "Then just leave out the leisure activities," was the advice Daniela Fuchs received at the parent's consultation when she complained about the high time burden on her daughter. "Then my child goes under," was her answer. Leonie plays the flute and dances ballet once a week. "I'll bring a chalk-white schoolchild there and get a red-cheeked girl back," says her mother. Family therapist Ursula Stolberg-Neumann is convinced that she is doing exactly the right thing for Leonie. "Leisure activities in which the children get positive confirmation are extremely important for development. They can take their inclinations, interests and talents into account much more than at school." Try something new, find out what suits you? that is essential to youth. "I experience again and again that a leisure activity in which you experience success, in which you have fun together with others, in which your whole life is in demand, can compensate a lot for the frustration experienced at school . "

Get to the bottom of your problems

If there are difficulties at school, she advises parents to be careful with allegations and instead look carefully at what is actually going on. "Often the reaction to bad grades is a reproachful, disappointed one. I claim that there is no child, not even a young person, who doesn't care about bad grades. As a rule, they themselves are the most disappointed and need consolation." Then you can think together about what you can do and how you can help. This includes remaining the contact person for your child so that changes are also perceived. A completely different problem can lie behind a lack of concentration. "One reason for this can be that you simply switch off because you can't anymore. Because you can't keep up, because you've already asked twice anyway and still don't understand it, because you're slowly giving up." In the opinion of the counselor, tutoring should be done in a dosed manner. It is there to close gaps selectively, not as a permanent facility throughout the school year.

School stress is family stress

School stress always means family stress. It negatively affects family relationships. Common times that you spend with something positive can bring a balance. In the event of long-term problems, however, you should by no means be afraid to contact a counseling center or the school psychologist. "Sometimes it is easier to look at it from the outside and see what is actually happening. Sometimes the children do not see the opportunity to express themselves openly at home what causes them stress. Especially when it is the parents who exert the pressure. There needs to be There is then help from outside so that the parents recognize that they should question their own wishes and expectations of their child - and their effects, "says Stolberg-Neumann. Mothers and fathers should already acknowledge their children's efforts. "Because a lot of children try very hard and it doesn't work out the way everyone would like it to." The most important thing that parents can do for the psychologist is: "To convey to the child: We love you the way you are, regardless of how things go at school?" Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn't happen in this way. The children have to feel that mom helps me, dad helps me, they won't let me down. Then we'll just take a different path, but that has nothing to do with me as a person. " According to Stolberg-Neumann, this succeeds when parents trust their child that they will make their way, even if detours may be necessary. "In a nutshell, a fifteen-year-old boy said: 'Mom, believe me, something will come of me.?"

Claudia Klement-Rückel