This is time of year when the back-to-school commercials start flashing across television screens, driving many parents and students into a mad panic to prepare for the coming curriculum. An article from Psychology Today notes that returning to school can be especially tough on teenage high school students, and that seeking professional advice can be an option.
There are many factors that can cause anxiety about school, whether it’s moving to a new city and getting oriented, or trying to fit in with the other students and make friends. Whether you’re parent trying to get their child ready for the next grade, or a student heading off to university or college, here are six things to keep in mind when summer’s over and it’s time to hit the books…
Find the Source of the Anxiety
According to research from the Mayo Clinic, kids starting at a new school may be particularly worried about attending class. If these fears start to affect their regular routine then it may be time to intervene—or seek the advice of a doctor.
The clinic suggests finding out what your child’s major concerns are—whether stress is originating over making friends or trying to find their new locker—and using exposure therapy to calm them. Exposure therapy is the act of doing something repeatedly until it no longer causes debilitating fear.
Remember, Being Nervous is Common
Teens, especially those just entering high school, can become closed off and disconnected from their parents due to anxiety about the coming season. This might mean they have no one to confide in about their back-to-school fears.
Psychology Today encourages parents to tell their children that getting butterflies in their stomach is normal, and to welcome them to talk about it. Perhaps share your own experiences with high school (good and bad) and remind them you turned out okay in the end…
Don’t Act like it’s a Big Deal
Much of a child’s stress about school can actually be coming from you as the parent. If teens sense a big change is coming and you’re spending every moment trying to groom them for class, they might get a sense of something scary coming their way.
About Parenting backs this up by noting that it’s a good practice to “downplay the milestone” to avoid raising your child’s anxiety. The article suggests that if you have a young child, try to connect the school experience with something they’re already comfortable with, such as a music class they’re enrolled in or a daycare.
Meet the Teachers Ahead of Time
If you’re sending your child off to school for the first time, it’s probably a good idea to at least know who the teachers are in advance and open the lines of communication. Your child may have symptoms of separation anxiety that can be eased by being more familiar with the classroom leaders.
Meeting teachers ahead of time and seeing the school as a safe and welcoming environment can help ease both your own stress as well as your child’s. If your child has a tendency to act out or needs assistance staying occupied, it’s good for the instructors to know this ahead of time to ease the transition.
Remember How University Changed Your Life
Remember all those magic moments and firsts you may have experienced in university or college that you’ll never forget (although you may have forgotten some of the textbook teachings)? If you’re having a hard time seeing your child leave the nest for university, remember how important it is for their life experience and career.
Keep in mind that your child will also be sad to part ways with you, while also feeling incredibly excited about navigating the next stage of their life with their own wings. The BBC suggests staying positive by thinking about your child’s wise decision to seek continued education, and also that you’ll now have more time to yourself to take a hobby or travel. Staying in touch is key!
Keep an Eye on Your Child’s Well-Being
The anticipation of going back to school can cause some teens to avoid taking care of themselves—and that includes not eating enough. AnxietyBC says it’s important to ensure your child is getting proper sleep and nutrition, because if they aren’t, it will only lessen their coping skills.
If your child or teen is irritable or distracted, it may be they need some help keeping themselves nourished. AnxietyBC suggests offering healthy snacks frequently throughout the day, which can ease stress due to the extra attention to talk out worries during mealtimes.