It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down. “Back to School” signs and commercials are being advertised. Schedules, routines, and a sense of normalcy are coming back to you and your family. As a parent, you may welcome the school year back with open arms as it brings a bit more structure to daily life. However, your teenager may have some different thoughts about the countdown.
Your teen may be feeling anxious, nervous, or even unsure about the upcoming school year. Perhaps, they are in a big transition from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school. The anticipation of a new class schedule and routine might leave your teen feeling apprehensive with just a few days left until school begins. Whatever they are feeling about the new school year, below are a couple of helpful ways you can best support them during the transition.
Hear them out. Have you ever had an amazing week-long vacation, but then the Sunday before work on Monday morning came around? A feeling of dread can often wash over you. Your teen may be experiencing something similar. A whole summer is a long time to be out of school, to not have a particular routine, and to be experiencing more freedom than usual. Teens transitioning back to more structure, responsibility, and letting go of the summer fun can be difficult at first. Them feeling apathetic about the first few days of school is normal. As a parent, you can both hear their grievances with empathy while also waking them up for the 7am bus. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Feeling heard and understood can make a big difference for teens.
Consider new freedoms. Your teen is growing up before your eyes. Perhaps, they are
entering middle school or high school. As they grow developmentally, it might be good to consider giving them more or new responsibilities and allow more age-appropriate freedoms. The older your teen gets, their desire for these things will grow. As parents, it is your judgment as to what this should look like, but It could be helpful to start thinking about what new responsibilities, freedoms, or controls you want to allow your teen. Some ideas to think about might include packing their own lunch, letting them decide how they would like to decorate their room, extending their bed time 15-30 minutes later, or asking for their thoughts on a particular matter. Considering new freedoms for your teen that don’t lead to any harm could be helpful for their growth as they start back the new school year.
As your teen heads back to school this year, remember to hear them out on what they are feeling. Being a parent that your teen can communicate with will do wonders for them and help put your mind at ease. Feeling heard, listened to, and understood is helpful for every person in life, especially teenagers. During this transition back to school, keep in mind where your teen is at developmentally. What are some healthy and harmless ways where new freedoms, choices, and controls can be given to your growing teen? Back to school season can be a stressful transition, but implementing some of these ideas just might make it easier on you, your teen, and your whole family.
Written by: Dr. Austin Shugart, LPC