It’s that time of the year when your tween or teenager’s anxiety level is reaching new levels, especially if they are transitioning to a new school, to middle school or to high school. Life has been full of relaxing days, sleeping late, family vacations and less responsibility for three months. In the blink of an eye, summer has flown by, and it’s time to go back to school.

You can help your child transition back to school with less stress. Here are some helpful ideas.

  1. If your child is going to a new school, make sure you visit the school ahead of time. Allow them time to walk through the school, find their classrooms, practice opening their locker, and in general, get comfortable being in the school.
  2. Help your child to organize their room and their study space before school starts. Work with them to develop a plan for studying effectively and keeping track of all of their schoolwork. This will help ease anxiety by starting the year with more peaceful and less chaotic surroundings.
  3. Establish a calendar for your child with their activities and critical dates. Teens can have a google calendar that they can see on their phone. They can set reminders on their cell phones to remember everything from bringing a textbook home to submitting projects and papers on due dates.
  4. Talk with your child about any social concerns they have at the start of school. They may be upset that their close friends are not in class with them. They may be worried about who they will sit with at lunch. If they are starting middle school or high school, they may have anxiety about not knowing so many of the other students or being picked up by upper classmen. If they are in flux with their current group of friends, they may be worried about who they are going to hang out with at school. Do not try to solve their problems for them. Instead, just listen to them talk about their worries.
  5. If you can afford it, do some back-to-school shopping and allow your child to pick out something special to wear on the first day.
  6. If your child has significant anxiety about the first day, devise a plan for the first day that allows them to do some things to relax before they go to school. Perhaps putting on headphones or ear buds and listening to some of their favorite music on the way to school may help them to relax. Teach them to do some positive self-talk to themselves before school. They can tell themselves things such as “Today is going to be a great day” and “I can do this.” I like to tell my teens to “fake it until you make it” and act confident even when they don’t feel that way.
  7. Minimize the anxiety and chaos of getting ready for school by helping your child to have a routine and have the things they need picked out and set aside the night before. Try to avoid last minute delays because your child can’t find their sneakers or other important items.
  8. If your child is starting a new school, encourage them to get involved in a school activity. This is a great way for them to make new friends and meet new people.

The bottom line is to put yourself in your child’s shoes and imagine how they feel going back to school. Sometimes, just showing you care and allowing them to vent their concerns is exactly what they need. Remember, you don’t have to fix everything for them. In fact, you don’t want to (but that’s a topic for a future blog post). Just show up for them by being there, listening to them, telling them you understand, and showing them you love them.

Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net