My daughter always experienced anxiety about the first day of school. As her mom it was difficult to know what to do to help lessen her anxiety. She also struggled with ADHD which left me often feeling powerless as to how best to support her starting at the beginning of the school year (and during the school year too).
Now that she’s twenty-seven and teaches kids with learning differences and behavior issues, she’s able to share some of her wisdom.
Summer is almost over and it’s time for the infamous back to school adjustment period. There are things I used to love about going back to school (aka shopping for new school clothes) and things I didn’t like (homework).
For the most part, I always felt like school started on a pretty high note, but there were times that were stressful, too. I was the new kid going into middle school, which was scary.
I worried I wouldn’t make friends. I worried I’d struggle academically, or get nervous when a new class appeared to be difficult. No matter what your child’s feelings are regarding back to school, you can be a support system.
Here are 5 tips to help your tween or teen feel less anxious about back to school:
Make it fun.
This may be a controversial one, but my freshman year of high school, my mom let my best friend spend the night before we went on the first day. We helped each other get ready in the morning, helped each other shake off that freshman anxiety, and carried the tradition into our senior year.
Maybe this isn’t your thing, but think of ways you can make high school start on a high note.
Support your teen to reflect on what a couple of their biggest struggles have been years prior.
Did they struggle with a certain subject? Organization? Were they in need of some extra help?
Ask your teen what might help them to be successful. Encourage them to come up with some strategies and to make a plan.
Find ways to make them feel good.
If your child has trouble making friends or doesn’t know anybody at school, this can be a pretty anxiety inducing time.
Try to find ways to boost your child’s self confidence before they go to school.
This may sound superficial, but there’s nothing like having a fantastic haircut, or an outfit you love. For me feeling good about myself alleviated some of my social anxiety.
Bad first day?
This doesn’t mean a bad school year. It actually can be quite normal for the first day to be a little stressful, especially if your teen is transitioning to a new school or they’ve faced some challenges the year before.
If your teen comes home discouraged, remember that it takes a while to adjust, form friendships and to navigate their way. This will help to lessen your own anxiety.
Provide support and an ear to listen. That doesn’t always mean you have to step in and “fix it.” Preteen and teenage years are for building autonomy. When you view your child as capable of figuring things out, they will believe in themselves too. The opposite can also be true – when we fail to believe in their abilities this can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Empower your teen to become more independent.
Building on the above, think about ways you can support your child in becoming more independent this school year.
They’re growing older, and while they still need you, they need you in different ways.
As difficult as this is for parents, step back. Don’t get overly involved in making sure they are doing their homework. Resist the urge to constantly check their grades.
Encourage your child to advocate for themselves, both at home and in school, to get what they need.
While back to school season yields mixed reviews from most tweens and teens, it provides a unique opportunity for us to engage with our children and come alongside them as a support system.
I encourage you to lean in when you need to and step back when necessary.
Empowering and encouraging should be at the forefront. Here’s to a great 2017 school year!