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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Renfrow

Back to School: How to Help Your Teen

How to Help Your Teen Ease the Transition Back to School

Heading back to school after a summer away can bring about an array of emotions for teenagers. There is the excitement of being back with their friends and the hopefulness of a new school year. There is also a natural hesitation about taking new classes, the pressure of homework deadlines, and the social scene of school that can often bring about anxiety and fear in teens.

This year may feel even more stressful for your teen as they consider their future, start to visit colleges, and the social pressure of making decisions geared towards their future adult selves.

Stress in Teens is on the Rise

Students have undergone tremendous challenges the last few years due to the pandemic, feeling socially isolated, political strife, school violence, and so much more. A 2021 study found that adolescents of varying backgrounds are experiencing more mental health disturbances, including anxiety, depression, and stress than ever before.

Here are five ways to help your teen prepare and cope with back-to-school stress.

Practice Frontloading

We can anticipate that going back to school will be challenging for our teens as well as the rest of the family. Frontloading is the process of getting ahead of a problem by anticipating it, talking it through, and making a plan before it comes up.

Anticipating the fears and worries about going back to school and making a plan for your teen to get through it will help them feel more prepared, feel less anxious, and be more successful. Ask your teens about their hopes, expectations, concerns and worries regarding back to school. Then share yours and come up with plans and processes together to help the start of the new school year to run smoothly.

Listen to Your Teen

Creating space for open dialogue with your teen creates a safe space where you can offer support and lend an ear to your teen’s struggles and concerns. Setting the foundation of support, understanding, and a safe space to express their feelings of frustration or sadness helps your teen to regulate and tolerate these emotions.

When your teen expresses how they are feeling try listening without offering unsolicited advice, confirm your love for them, and let them know that you are there to support them in their struggles.

Create a Consistent Routine

Teens often feel stressed and anxious when things are uncertain. Helping your teen establish a set routine can help ease some of that anxiety. This can be as simple as creating a structure to those early school mornings and planning out transportation to their events. Creating consistency in their schedule helps sooth anxiety by reducing uncertainly and providing them with a sense of control.

Make Their Physical Health a Priority

Mental health is linked with physical health. Helping your teen make space for proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep will go a long way in helping regulate emotions and cope with the stress of school.

Getting enough sleep can be a huge struggle for teens. With the expectations of homework, sports obligations, part time jobs, and family responsibilities most teens don’t get the necessary eight to ten hours of sleep that adolescents need.

Think of sleep as the glue that holds human beings together. When your teen becomes overwrought over small things or are unusually reactive or temperamental, take a look into the possibility that they may not be getting adequate sleep.

Lead by Example

As parents, it is essential to practice good self-care and give attention to your own mental health as you are modeling for your teen. Even if we don’t realize it, teens are often looking to their parents and pick up their habits.

Eating well, exercising, getting good sleep, and being kind to yourself when things do not go well not only helps you manage your own stress, but equips teens with observable tools on how they can also cope with life’s stressors and uncertainties.

No matter what, back-to-school is stressful for everyone. Accepting that this transition time will be challenging, being a safe place for your teen to express their worries and fears, and taking care of yourself in the process will go a long way in coping with this time of year.

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