Where did the summer go?! Countless parents are asking themselves the same question right about now. It is the end of the summer and time to start preparing your children, teens or young adults to go back to school. It is not uncommon to hear reluctant moans and groans after facing the reality of having to start another academic year.
For some, getting ready to deal with new teachers, new classmates and new experiences is exciting and exhilarating. However, for others, it may be daunting and extremely anxiety provoking.
In some instances, children, teens and young adults can experience persistent anxiety or disruptions that can interfere with their daily functioning. These individuals could be experiencing anxiety that may lead to:
Nervousness or Irritability
Avoiding situations that provoke anxiety
Refusal to attend school
Here are a few effective ways to reduce the back-to-school blues your children, teens or young adults may be experiencing:
1) Start the Daily Routine – Facilitate the transition of heading back-to-school by encouraging them to establish a healthy sleep routine before school starts, and discuss healthy food options to fuel them physically and mentally. Also, prepare and organize their school materials ahead of time and create a comfortable, quiet and enticing homework spot that will get them excited about sitting down to complete homework. Be sure there is enough time for homework and for fun activities. Finding a balance is key.
2) Highlight the Positives – Help them get excited about school by identifying all the positives, such as catching up and spending time with friends or engaging in activities they used to enjoy such as sports or hobbies. Plan activities or fun things they can do during down time.
3) Normalize Their Feelings and Talk to Them – It is important to listen, show interest and empathize with your children no matter how old they are. Let them know that you understand what it is like to be in their shoes and assure them that you are available if they need you. Communicate with them and ask questions. Addressing expectations for the school year and processing some of their fears and worries (i.e., academic pressures, social and sexual pressures, performance in sports, and bullying) helps alleviate some of the anxiety.
For teens or young adults that exhibit difficulty sharing their
thoughts or feelings about school, carve out one on one time and talk
to them using open ended statements that allow them the
opportunity to add their two cents (i.e., “I’m sure you are really
excited to see your friends again every day, but I’m sure there is also
stuff that you are not too excited about….”). Let them know you will not judge them if they come to you for support. Reassure them that
they can share their concerns with you and you will always be there to listen, or try to provide advice or support. When talking to them it may be helpful to use phrases like “I think you might feel better if….” instead of saying “Don’t do….” Or “That’s not right….”
4) Have fun and De-stress – Plan a fun activity, a get together or outing before starting school to help reduce stress and find a fun way to say goodbye to summer and hello to a new school year! While having fun, help them identify a few coping skills they can use if they start to feel overwhelmed at school (i.e., taking deep breathes when they start to notice feelings of frustration).
What happens once school starts and your children, teens or young adults are still dealing with the back-to-school blues…?
If you notice your child, teen or young adult continues to struggle after the initial back-to-school jitters, check in with them and if necessary seek out additional support by having them talk to a school counselor or other therapist.
The following are some warning signs that require further attention and mental/emotional support from a professional:
Problematic, erratic or drastic changes in behaviors (i.e., increased impulsivity, lying, etc.)
Chronic depression or anxiety
Increased irritability or difficulty regulating emotions
Changes in sleep patterns or appetite
Increased isolation from friends or others
Any behaviors that interfere with relationships or school progress
It is important to identify these symptoms in your children and to seek support from a professional that can help them process and cope with what they are experiencing. Additionally, below is a list of helpful online resources:
Remember, when diffusing the back-to-school blues, parents who balance their support and control have children who perform best. Using a combination of emotional, mental, physical and educational support along with monitoring schedules and activities will promote academic achievement, social success, resiliency and balance.
Good luck with the new school year!