Kids with learning and thinking differences can feel more anxious than their peers during every school transition. But moving through high school can bring a whole new level of stress. Increased workloads and the prospect of life after high school can loom large for teens.
Here are common reasons for high school stress—and how to help.
1. Fear of Failure
Kids who’ve struggled in school for many years often come to high school with a history of setbacks. Past failures can make the demands of high school feel even greater.
2. Tougher Academics and More Responsibilities
What you can do: Remind your child of the supports he has—both at school and at home. Encourage him to reach out to teachers for help. If he has an IEP, he can reach out to his IEP case manager too, and even ask about having self-advocacy goals included in his IEP. You may want to look into tutoring options. You can also:
3. Social Pressures
Social situations can also be a source of stress for teens. They can feel pressure to fit in, to be popular and to have a lot of friends—whether these are real friends or not. And as teens become more independent, they may find themselves in new and possibly risky situations where they need to make tough choices.
Find ways to help him handle school cliques.
Get tips from experts on when to let teens face the consequences of their actions.
4. Uncertainty About the Future
In high school, kids have to start thinking about what kind of career they want to pursue. They also have to choose a path: college, work, vocational training. If your child has an IEP, he’ll go through a formal process to plan that transition. But that alone may not lessen the stress.
What you can do: Assure your child that feeling unsure or worried about the future is normal. Remind him that there are many ways for him to find success and happiness in life. You can also:
Encourage your child to watch the documentary Being You. It’s about three young people with learning and thinking differences who travel around the country to explore what the future may hold for them. You can even watch it together and have a conversation using the Being You discussion guide.
5. Concerns About College
Just thinking about college can be stressful for kids with learning and thinking differences. But the process of getting there can create specific stressors. These include college entrance exams, filling out applications and choosing a school.
It’s natural for kids with learning and thinking differences to feel stress about high school. But ongoing stress can build and sometimes may lead to mental health issues. Know the signs of anxiety and depression. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s doctor if you have concerns.
Keep in mind that stress isn’t always bad. Learn about the difference between good stress and bad stress for kids with learning and thinking differences.