Change can cause anyone to feel more anxiety than usual, but change while your body experiences dramatic hormonal growth? A perfect storm.
As summer draws to a close, parents may notice that their bright and bubbly teen is spending more time in their bedroom, avoiding summer practices, and growing more irritable by the minute. While return-to-school anxiety is real for many students every year, it should not impede their social and mental health.
Let’s go over how you can best support your teen this school year, and how the pandemic may contribute to their anxiety.
Early Signs of Anxiety
Think back to pre-pandemic times. Did your child make a habit of missing class because of stress? While a mental health day is important now and then, once it becomes the only way to de-stress from school, it is time to intervene.
Early signs can also look like repeated visits to the school nurse or calls and texts asking to leave early. All these stressors may be enhanced under the haze of COVID-19.
What Do We Consider “Normal” Anxiety Now?
Remember that anxiety is a normal human emotion, just like sadness, excitement, and annoyance. It is particularly useful for identifying threats in our environment, as well as risks before making tough calls. Anxiety keeps us safe by nature.
However, it becomes problematic when our fear level becomes higher than the threat in the environment.
But let’s be clear: the nature of this pandemic shifted our understanding of what “normal” and “harmful” amounts of anxiety look like. Anxiety becomes harmful for teens when they experience…
- Lower grades
- Less time spent with friends
- Lower school attendance
- Unexplained headaches or stomach aches
Our trained counselors can help teens cope with school-related anxiety if at-home efforts do not seem to be enough.
Ways To Best Support Your Teen At Home
Have a Positive COVID-19 Test Plan
If your child is afraid of testing positive, do not promise them a future that is out of your control. Instead, come up with a plan together to feel as prepared as you can. This will ease more of their anxiety than ignoring their concern altogether.
The CDC is a great resource for staying up-to-date on COVID precautions and protocol. You should also reach out to your school about their plan for positive COVID-19 cases.
Be A Steady and Predictable Element in Their Life
Before the pandemic, did you pack them the same lunch every day? Toss in a handwritten motivational note? Whip up breakfast on test days? Ask yourself what routines worked pre-pandemic and re-establish the most successful ones.
In addition, try to provide a consistent and non-judgemental listening ear. A lot of a person’s anxiety can clear up just by knowing someone is always there to talk to when things become too much.
Empower your teen and their ability to problem-solve by asking them guided questions, like…
- How much do you feel capable of doing right now?
- How can I support you?
- Is there anyone else you want help from?
- How can we make going back to school easier?
Remember that children are resilient and adaptable by nature, and it is our job to highlight how to self-regulate anxiety. Consider admitting any time you feel anxious yourself. You could say, “This day wiped me out. Want to go on a walk through the Metropark?”
With the right modeling and messaging from parents, teens can overcome their anxiety and reap the benefits of in-person schooling again. If the constant worry ever becomes debilitating for your child, trust that our counselors can help. Make an appointment today and together, we can get back on track.