4 tips to help teens manage back-to-school anxiety
COVID-19 has created unique and unpredictable challenges for all of us. With a new school year approaching, many have been hoping for a return to normalcy. For some adolescents, however, this return could bring about mixed emotions, with back-to-school anxiety a serious concern.
“Some teens have found virtual schooling to be easier than in-person, with a reduction in social anxiety and being able to work at their own pace. This could leave some teens struggling with the prospect of returning to school in person,” said Katelin Williamson, DO.
She shared some recommendations to help support your teen during this transition.
- Encourage open communication. Ask your teen their thoughts on returning to school and validate their emotions. While their worries may seem small in the grand scheme of family stressors, it is important for your teen to feel heard and understand that you recognize the challenges they are facing, big or small. Using responses such as “I hear this is creating a lot of worries for you, and I’m proud of you for trying” or “it’s okay to feel anxious, this is a big change for you.”
- Define the mood. It is important to express confidence in your adolescent’s ability to handle the transition. You can support them in modeling your own confidence in them. Don’t allow your own anxiety to drive interactions with your teen and add to any anxiety they may be feeling. Stay calm when discussing return-to-school safety precautions and focus on what your family is doing to maintain health and wellness.
- Establish a routine. Adolescents thrive on routine and predictability. Now is a good time to encourage your teen to practice regular sleep and wake times that follow their school schedule. Have regular family check ins during dinner time or other family activities. Beginning to visit the school may be beneficial for some students, giving them a chance to reacquaint themselves with finding their classrooms and their teachers. Many schools are willing to facilitate on-campus visits prior to the first day of school for individual students.
- If needed, seek help. Some teens may need more support through this challenging transition. If your teen is struggling with returning to school, there are many trained professionals ready to help. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for a referral.
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