Remember those knots in the stomach, those headaches and those fears that you'd have no one to sit with at lunch at school? Yep. You remember. I feel your collective nod. None of us forget our back-to-school anxiety. I'm afraid, however, that we forget about the anxiety that our teens feel when they go back-to high school either as freshman or in the higher grades. Many of us believe that by the time our kids reach high school they've got this anxiety under control. Look, they've been back to school so many times before so they must have their anxiety under control; right? Nope. I talk to teens all week long and the vast majority have anxiety about returning to school. They are worried about a number of issues including the difficulty of their classes, being liked, fitting in, managing their daily life, etc. Transitions in life are simply fraught with anxiety and fear of the unknown. None of us, particularly not teenagers are comfortable with ambiguity and the unknown.
So bearing in your mind that your teens are nervous not only about the first day of school but possibly also about the initial few weeks or even months of school consider helping your teens. I have a number of ideas about how to help them. Read on and make a list of your own ideas to send me. Thanks!
1. Talk to your teens about the importance of having a routine. We all do better with structure and schedules -- every last one of us no matter how old we are. Eating regularly and getting enough sleep are two of the most important aspects of a good schedule. Feeling rested and full prevent additional anxiety for all of us. Work on modeling this idea of a regular schedule for your kids. I always tell you that your teens are watching you and that they learn best through observational learning.
2. Help your teens set realistic expectations. There is nothing helpful about them getting all As immediately or ever, for that matter. Nor do they have to be Mr. or Ms. Popularity. Having a few good friends that they can count on is where it's at. Keep in mind that perfectionism breeds anxiety and that is not what you want for your kids, right?
3. Show interest in all aspects of your teen's life at school, not simply their grades. Teens tell me all the time that "how was your day?" from parents actually translates into "How are your grades?" With this in mind remember to show interest in all aspects of their lives at school including fun and funny moments, social drama, teachers, etc. This will be soothing to your teens. I promise.
4. Familiarize yourself with your teen's school, friends and teachers so you have some sort of visual about their lives. You want your kids to know that you are familiar with their lives, not clueless. This too will be a source of comfort to them.
5. Everyone needs goals. Help your teens set mini-goals. Thinking about one large task like a big project or a college application is much more palatable if it is broken down into several small tasks. Praise them as they complete each small step. And yes, teens do want their parents approval. They won't tell you this but I will. And your approval serves frazzled nerves and improves the development healthy self-esteem.
Most importantly remember that your teens need you to be the most important member of their fan clubs. Have a great school year!