Whether your child is heading to new school for the first time or is a seasoned student, they sometimes have a tough time making the back-to-school transition.
As with any new or unsettling situation — like starting school for the first time or entering a new grade or new school — give teens time to adjust. Remind them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it will be an everyday routine in no time.
How to handle if your child is experiencing any of these issues:
- Academic Challenges
A new grade brings new challenges. Perhaps your child will be expected to do homework or write a research paper for the first time. With fears of not measuring up academically, the best defense is a good offense. Getting organized and establishing reassuring routines can go a long way to making a child feel competent.
Rumors of a particularly hard teacher may fuel fearing or disliking a new teacher. Do help your child keep in mind that one person’s dreaded teacher can be another teen’s favorite. While it’s okay for your child to express his/her dislike of a teacher, he/she should be expected to remain respectful. You can encourage his/her to be open-minded and approach this as an opportunity to help his/her learn how to deal with a person he/she finds difficult. Listen to his/her issues and plan to attend school gatherings to get your own take on the situation.
- Social Worries
A new class roster can mean adjusting without friends who have provided a social base in previous years. Try to present this as an opportunity for your child to widen his/her group of friends, rather than a tragic loss of familiar faces. Establish time for him/her to catch up with old friends too.
A new school or classroom may spark concerns about finding friends at all. An outside class or hobby can provide a conversation starter and the opportunity to meet teens outside your child’s usual circles. Talking to him/her about other challenging situations that he/she successfully navigated also boosts self-esteem.
- Getting Help
Most back-to-school anxiety is anticipatory. If the level and type of anxiety seems a marked departure from your child’s usual behavior and lasts well past the beginning of the school year, consider seeking outside help. Start by talking with his teacher. Next, a school counselor or psychologist can provide valuable tips and resources.
To help ease back-to-school butterflies, try to ease teens into a consistent school-night routine a few weeks before school starts. Also make sure that they:
- get enough sleep (set a reasonable bedtime so that they’ll be rested and ready to learn in the morning)
- eat a healthy breakfast (they’re more alert and do better in school if they eat a good breakfast every day)
- write down the need-to-know info to help them remember details such as their locker combination, what time classes and lunch start and end, their homeroom and classroom numbers, teachers’ names, etc.
- use a wall calendar or personal planner to record when assignments are due, tests will be given, extracurricular practices and rehearsals will be held, etc.
have them organize and set out what they need the night before (homework and books should be put in their backpacks by the door and clothes should be laid out in their bedrooms)
It is normal for every child to react to going back to school in his/her own way. This can make it tempting to apply your own experience to your child’s life. Although harkening back can provide insight, remember that your child is not you. Be calm and matter of fact. Listen and provide reassurance, but try not to heighten anxiety with old memories and good intentions.
In the end, the most important tool you can use is to know your own child. Observe the situation, but also try to keep it all in perspective. For most teens, back-to-school jitters will melt away easily.