Summer is in full swing, but Fall is just around the corner. As children and teens wrap up summer events and get ready for the start of school, anxiety might come up. For parents, it can be challenging to know how to support a teen who is feeling anxious about going back to school. Perhaps your teen struggled last year with missed days due to anxiety, or your teen is going to start high school and is feeling anxious because their friends are all going to different schools. No matter what the reason for feeling anxious, there are some things parents can do to help kids get ready for the return to school.
Tips for Parents
- Don’t minimize symptoms. Anxiety can significantly affect quality of life. If your teen has anxiety with the start of the school year, ask what worries them. Try not to ignore or minimize what they tell you. Instead, validate the concerns and then create a plan for how to manage the worry.
- Do talk about what they are looking forward to. Along with asking about the worry, ask what your teen is looking forward to. Try to draw focus to the positive aspects of returning to school.
- Have a plan. If your teen is worried about transition to high school because they’ll lose contact with their friends, see if your school has a buddy system or offers to pair up freshman with a more senior student. If they’re concerned about the transition to middle school because they’ll need to switch classes, go to the school a week before it starts to meet teachers and find classes.
- Get into a good sleep routine now. Over the summer, teens often are staying up late and sleeping into the late morning (or later). Early school starts can be jolting! Gradually work on going to bed at a consistently earlier time now (July/August) and waking up at a consistent time in the morning (yes, even on the weekends).
- If your teen has symptoms that are impacting their day to day function or preventing them from engaging in school, check in with your health care provider. They may recommend meeting with a therapist for behavioral strategies to manage anxiety or discuss medication options.
- Work with the school on accommodations. If anxiety lead to physical symptoms, panic attacks, and/or multiple missed days of school in the past, your teen may be eligible for accommodations at school. This may be in the form of a 504 plan or may be agreements with the teachers. Examples of accommodations that can help include allowing for extra time on stressful assignments (such as oral presentations) or allowing your teen to step out of the class for a few minutes if they feel anxious in order to use relaxation techniques.