Many teens aren’t eager to share their inner feelings and emotions with their parents and caregivers. But just because they haven’t said anything doesn’t mean they aren’t worrying as the first day of school nears. High school can be a very stressful time, especially for kids who learn and think differently. This year may be especially stressful if kids are returning to in-person school after learning from home for so long.
There’s a lot to deal with: demanding academics, more responsibilities to juggle, a confusing social scene, and college and career on the horizon. Even if teens don’t readily open up about their feelings, you can still watch for signs of anxiety. And try these tips for calming first-day jitters in high school.
1. Make sure their class schedule is correct.
A mix-up in your teen’s class schedule can be upsetting, especially if it’s not discovered until school starts. Suggest your child look over the class schedule as soon as it’s posted or sent. Better yet, do it together. You want your teen to have enough time to make a correction if needed.
2. Talk about afterschool commitments.
Between part-time jobs, sports, and other extracurriculars, high-schoolers often take on more than they can manage. And, just like us, they have relationships and social pressures. Before your teen signs up for activities, ask if it’ll be stressful to manage schoolwork plus everything else week after week. What are their plans for fitting it all in? If it feels like too much, talk to your teen about their preferences. What do they love to do the most?
3. Remind your teen of their support network.
Sometimes, teens start to feel like they’re all alone, drowning in schoolwork and extracurriculars. But while teens are expected to take on more responsibility, there are people who want to help.
Encourage teens to self-advocate with teachers and case managers, and to speak up before things get way off track or they feel totally lost or overwhelmed. Regularly remind your teen that you’re always there to help. And when your teen does ask for help, do your best to help in a way that makes them glad they asked.
4. Relieve fears about the future.
Thinking about college or jobs can be overwhelming. Tests like the ACT and SAT can create a lot of stress. Reassure your teen that there are many paths students take after high school — even paths that neither of you know about yet. If your teen has an IEP, make it clear that together you’ll work with the school to plan for a smooth transition to life after high school.
5. Be sensitive to social pressures.
Your teen may not tell you about every difficult social situation. But you can still make it clear that you’d like to hear what’s on your teen’s mind.
Try saying something like, “The high school is so much bigger than middle school. Are you concerned you won’t know anybody in your classes?” Or “You haven’t seen Eva since you broke up this summer. Are you worried about running into her at school?”
Find out what to do if your teen stops talking to you. And learn more about why your teen may be frustrated about school — and what you can say to help.