Within the next few weeks, millions of U.S. students will be starting a new school year. It will be many students’ first time sharing a classroom with other students in over a year. Different scenarios will also be at play for some kids, like starting a new school, having friends who are not returning and going back after losing connections with peers. Because of this, even kids who are usually excited to start a new school year may feel anxious, nervous, and afraid.
Ways to help your teen prepare for the new school year
While you may have a good idea of how your teen is feeling, it’s important not to assume. Even if you think you know how your child is feeling or what they are thinking, you should give them the chance to tell you. It’s not uncommon for a child to put on a facade to hide their feelings because they want their parents to believe they are happy or that nothing is wrong. The best way you can understand your teen’s perspective is by asking open-ended questions. For example, to get a better idea about how your child feels about returning to school, you might ask, “What are some things that you’re most looking forward to about going back to school?” And you could follow that question with, “What are the things that you’ll miss most summer break?”
Ways to Help Your Teen Have a Happy and Successful School Year
Once you’re sure that you understand how your child feels, you can empower them to think of ways to address anything that may be bothering them. For example, it can be helpful to have them role-play specific worries or concerns such as going to school and not knowing anyone or fear of not finding someone to sit with at lunch.
By regularly checking in with your teen, you can help ensure that they’re receiving your support when they need it and reassure them that they’re not alone and you care about what’s going on in their life.
Other ways to help your teen have a successful school year
Many kids are likely to experience some anxiety about returning to school, even those who appear confident. If your teen is experiencing anxiety because of returning to school, it’s important to remind them that they’re not alone.
- Teach self-compassion – Self-compassion is an essential concept that we don’t hear a lot about and one that most of us don’t practice enough. Both kids and adults need self-compassion. The first step to having self-compassion is by accepting your thoughts and feelings without shame or guilt. Your teen needs to know that their feelings do not need to define them.
- Encourage connections – Teens need social interaction with others to thrive and develop. Social withdrawal among teens has seemed to have increased significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. f your teen has become socially withdrawn, it’s important to try to have others included in the activities. Asking extended family (cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles) to do things with your teen can be a great way to help your teen start feeling more comfortable with doing things outside of the house. You can help your teens find ways to reconnect with old friendships or to establish new relationships by encouraging them to join clubs and try new extracurricular activities at their school or within their community.
- Find reasons to praise your teen – As a result of the pandemic, many teens struggled this past year with low or failing grades, moodiness, or an “I don’t care attitude.” Sometimes, parents get so focused on disciplining or trying to help their kids turn things around that they forget to acknowledge why they’re behaving the way they are. While you shouldn’t condone or ignore your child’s negative behavior, you can let them know that you love them, acknowledge that it’s a challenging time, and commend them for getting through this past year.
- Don’t give up if things don’t go as well as you’d hoped – If your teen seems reluctant to open up to you, don’t give up on engaging with them. You are making a difference! Or, if the school year doesn’t start as well as they’d like, it’s essential to keep checking in with your teen and encourage them to keep a positive attitude and not give up. It may take a bit of time before your teen feels comfortable and meets the goals they’ve created for this school year.
- Look at the bright side – The mind is mighty and having a positive attitude can make a huge difference. While we’re living in unprecedented times, we also have a unique opportunity to start fresh in some situations. A new school year can mean new goals and finding ways to turn things around that we may not have liked from our past. Despite the circumstances, simply starting a day with a smile can positively affect the rest of the day.