During times of transition and change it is not uncommon to experience anxious feelings. This is especially true for teens returning to school. Anxiety about the start of the school year can begin weeks before school even starts. Not only do teens feel the effects of anxiety but, chances are, their parents and family system will be impacted by their symptoms as well.
Anxiety experienced by teens can vary from every day worries of what to wear and who their teachers will be to clinical diagnosis such as Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder or Social Phobia potentially resulting in school refusal, low self esteem or worsening of symptoms.
It is important to address school anxiety before it spirals for a teen. It is ideal to be preventative so the anxiety does not interfere with success at school or relationships. The result of early intervention could help your teen avoid the negative impacts of school avoidance such as missed school work, missed social opportunities or moments for praise and validation.
Effective strategies to combat anxiety will help teens learn how to manage it themselves. Additionally, the help of a good support system (parents, teachers, counselors) can only enhance the effects of these strategies.
Remember, everyone’s plan for coping will look different and will need to be tailored to the unique needs of your teen. In developing strategies, it is important to consider the teen’s age, gender, and personality traits.
Tips for Coping with Back to School Anxiety:
(1) Talk/Write Through Your Stress. Teens have the ability to think and reason in abstract terms. Therefore, they may benefit from being able to release their thoughts and feelings in the form of writing or talking. When a teen is allowed to tend to and nurture their emotions it can help combat the effects of anxiety.
(2) Predictable Routines. Many times this can go out the window during the summer, teens tend to fall off their schedules. It is critical to get back into a routine as soon as school starts if not before. Most importantly, incorporating a sleep/meal schedule into your teen’s daily routine is valuable.
(3) Problem-Solve the Concerns. Develop strategies to cope with the concerns. It is important to acknowledge that the anxiety is real and not something that will ‘just go away or get better.’ Come up with practical ideas to deal with the problem situations if they should occur.
(4) Role Play. Teens can ‘act out’ anxiety provoking situations with those they feel comfortable with; family, friends or a therapist for example.
(5) Focus on the Good. What could be exciting or positive about the upcoming school year? Often times teens will become so overwhelmed by anxiety they lose sight of what could potentially be good. Help them discover the positives.
(6) Manage the Inner Critic. What does your teen’s inner voice sound like? If they are struggling with anxiety, chances are their self talk is critical, overwhelming or negative. Help your teens speak calmer, kinder and fairer. Healthy self talk will help to build the confidence necessary to take on new challenges at school.
(7) Build or Enhance a Support System. Anxious teens benefit greatly from a healthy support system. The support system itself can be defined by the teen, which gives them the power in determining who they find helpful. A teens’s support system can consist of various people or groups. Some examples include, a parent, friend, school counselor, therapist, family member or support group could all be important people to help teens through anxiety.
And do not forget, reach out to our skilled therapists at FVI. We can help!