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Back to School Stress

Back to School Stress

How-to help your teen transition from Summer to school-work

Parents celebrate and kids groan when binders and backpacks begin to line the store shelves. Back to School season is here; with it comes familiar faces, old friends, a new schedule, and maybe some school stress/anxiety. It’s perfectly normal for your child to have the first day of school jitters. However, Mayo Clinic advises that school stressors like fitting in and transitioning from middle school to high school may influence a teen to drink underage.

How can a parent know when their child’s stress is normal versus when it could lead to risky behavior? Some signs of too much stress include constant anxiety, panic attacks, sleepless nights spent worrying, frequent stomach aches or headaches, social isolation and withdrawal, fatigue and exhaustion or sad mood and other signs of depression.

To mitigate the harmful side effects of stress, parents can support their child and teach healthy coping mechanisms early on. With a few weeks before school starts back up, now is a perfect time to start.

1. Start transitioning your child’s sleep schedule

Over the Summer you may have turned a blind eye to your child’s erratic sleep habits. Staying up late and sleeping in until noon were both fine when your child didn’t have any other obligations. However, school is starting and that means getting up early, packing a lunch, eating breakfast and catching the bus all before their teacher takes attendance.

Your child needs quality sleep in order to function properly at school and in life. Without their recommended 8-10 hours, your child could develop insomnia or sleep deprivation. It is better to implement a sleep schedule early on. Two to three weeks before the school starts, begin going to bed and getting up earlier and try to eat on a more regular schedule as well.
Helping your child be well-rested is an easy way to better manage back to school stress.

2. Go on a walk through

Being prepared is an excellent way to reduce anxiety and stress. When your child receives their schedule, go with them to school after hours. Walk through their schedule starting from their first class, when they will have time to stop by their locker, their lunch break, etc. This can help them better visualize their first day of school.

3. Set expectations and goals early on

Sit down and discuss goals for the upcoming school year. What does your teen hope to accomplish? What do they want to do differently than last year? Encourage them to set goals and write them down. Discussing goals can also lead to talking about structure. When will your teen have their homework done? How late can they stay out on school nights? An open discussion about expectations and schedules will get your teen back into the mindset of school. This can lead to an easier transition and less back to school stress.

4. Create Rewards

If your teen is still dreading going back to school, create a reward system to motivate them. This could include back to school shopping, a new restaurant they’ve been begging to try, or a trip to the movies. A reward after a stressful situation gives your teen something positive to focus on. This is a temporary fix, however, relying solely on rewards is not sustainable. It is a good tactic if your child is prone to overcome their stress easily and is just unsure about a new school year.

Back to school season can be a relief for parents. Their teens return to a schedule, stay busy, and continue to learn and develop. Juggling the demands of the busy summer schedule, just got a little easier as you transition to school drop-offs and quiet afternoons.  Keep in mind that while your schedule is opening up, your child may be taking on a new load of anxiety.

Remember, during this time, it is important to be empathetic to your child. They may be confronted with new surroundings, new faces, and the same social anxiety in the upcoming weeks. Peers can be unkind and the education system can be demanding. Keep this in mind as you watch to see if your teen is beginning to show negative side-effects of stress. While it may not always turn into risky behavior like underage drinking, parents can play a pivotal role in supporting their child through the upcoming months.

What are ways you have helped your teen prepare for the upcoming school year?

Ciera DuBan
Ciera@missourisafeandsober.com
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