Teens aren’t always eager to share all their worries with their parents, but just because they haven’t said anything doesn’t mean they don’t have worries as they approach the start of the school year. High school can be a very stressful time: demanding academics, more responsibilities to juggle, a confusing social scene, and college and career on the horizon are all on their minds. If your teen isn’t open about her feelings, be on the lookout for signs of anxiety, and try these tips to calm first-day jitters with high schoolers.
1. Make sure her schedule is correct. Sometimes schools make mistakes as they schedule classes for high schoolers. An unexpected mix-up can heighten first-week anxiety. Suggest your child look over her schedule ahead of time, or do it together, so there are no surprises. That also allows her to have her schedule corrected as early as possible.
2. Talk about non-school commitments. Sometimes high-schoolers bite off more than they can chew in terms of activities and part-time jobs. Ask whether she thinks she’ll be able to juggle all the activities she’s involved in along with schoolwork. If it’s just too much, ask which one she’d rather choose to drop for right now. Doing this before the school year starts will save a lot of stress in the long run.
3. Remind her of the support she has. Your high schooler might feel like she’s suddenly on her own when it comes to staying on top of schoolwork, but while she’s expected to take on more responsibility, there are a number of people she can turn to for help. Encourage her to self-advocate with teachers and case managers, and to speak up before things get way off track or she feels totally lost or overwhelmed. Remind her that she can always come to you, too.
4. Help relieve fears about the future. As high schoolers progress, the prospect of college, work, or a combination of the two looms large, so do tests like the ACT and SAT. Assure your child there are many paths students take after high school, and that you’ll help her explore ones that are right for him. If she has an IEP, remind her that together you’ll work with the school to plan for a smooth transition to life after school.
5. Be sensitive to social pressures. Your teen may not tell you outright that she’s nervous about social situations, but if you know what her past experiences have been, you can try to open the door to discussion. You might say something like, “The high school is so much bigger than middle school. Are you afraid you won’t know people in your classes?” Or, “You haven’t seen Emily since you broke up this summer. Are you worried about running into her at school?” Find out what to do if she gives you the silent treatment, and learn more about why your teen may be frustrated about school—and what you can say to help.
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