4 Tips to Help Teens Adjust as They Return to School

The past year and some change has been difficult for people worldwide. For many teens, it was the first time in their lives they didn’t have to wake up and take the bus to school.

While you might think they’d be happy about that, the change was marked with fear and uncertainty. They were unable to see their friends everyday like before. Their extracurriculars took a hit. They may have experienced a spike in anxiety or depression.

However, humans are remarkably adaptable. And as it’s time to return to onsite learning, there are ways you can help ease the transition for your teen.

1. Establish Routine

One of the most important aspects of getting back into the old swing of things is establishing a routine. Get into this routine as soon as possible.

For instance, your teen may have been staying up late or sleeping in with remote learning. For many teens, this is a hard pattern to break. So, encourage them to go to bed at a regular time. You can also encourage them to eat breakfast. Not only is it fuel for their body, but it can be a positive start to their day.

You can also help them get into a better routine of doing their homework in the afternoon or evening so they have time to relax before bed. Other aspects of this routine can include chores or family time.

2. Empathize and Reassure

Your teen may be anxious to return to onsite learning with COVID-19 still looming. One way you can help ease their anxiety is by providing reassurance and confidence in the decision for in-person classes. After all, you’re living through the pandemic as well and this shared experience allows you to empathize with them.

Although they may be in a life stage where they’re discovering their independence, your teen still looks to you for comfort and support. If they are worried about seeing their peers again, remind them they haven’t lost their social skills overnight.

Emotional validation is key. Be sure to listen to them without interrupting when they express their fears or struggles.

3. Highlight Self Care

While it’s important to encourage your teen to get into a routine and reassure them, it’s also important to remember that this won’t be a magic fix. There will still likely be some anxiety about it all.

That’s why it’s also important to encourage self care as a part of your teen’s routine. Taking care of their emotional and physical needs during a stressful time will go a long way in helping them cope. You can:

  • Encourage them to take walks outside or try a new activity like yoga.
  • Encourage them to keep up with favorite hobbies.
  • Make sure they’re eating and sleeping well.
  • Allow them time to connect with others socially, either on the phone or socially distanced.
  • Take breaks from watching the news or scrolling through social media.

4. Celebrate the Positives

During stressful times, it helps to celebrate the positive things happening in life. Is there anything your teen is looking forward to about the return to school? Perhaps they’re excited to see a favorite teacher or a good friend. Maybe they did well on a quiz they were nervous about. Or it might excite them to partake in extracurriculars again.

Ask them what the best part of their day was when they get home. Even if it’s something small, celebrating it creates a positive track for the next day.

A teenager’s life is full of change and transition, pandemic excluded. With the health crisis on top of it, it’s understandable that they might be anxious about returning to school. For many, it has been a stressful and traumatic year. But you can help your teen make the most of returning to onsite learning and set them up for success.

Need extra support? Reach out today so we can help get you on a positive path and create healthy coping skills.

Signs Your Teen Might Be Anxious About Returning to School—What to Do About It

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.

Work Collaboratively

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.

5 Signs Your Teenager is Asking for Help

The teenage years can perhaps be best described as a time of physical, emotional, and social tumult. Changes happen so rapidly in adolescence, that neither child nor parent really knows how to cope.

Teenagers often become more detached from their families during this time. In fact, parents become less important in their teenager’s eyes, as their life outside the family develops.

While this is a normal and healthy part of development, it is not an easy place for parents to be. They must be able to let go of their children while still recognizing the warning signs of adolescent depression. This can be difficult because some moodiness is normal during the teenage years.

Here are 5 signs that your teen may be suffering from atypical depression and asking for help.

1. Mood Swings

As I just mentioned, thanks to the cocktail of hormones suddenly surging through a teenager’s body, it is quite normal for them to have mood swings. So how can you tell what’s normal and what is a sign of mental illness? You have to trust your parental instincts here. You know your child better than anyone and should be able to recognize any significant shift in mood. Particularly look for mood shifts that seem to have no root cause.

2. A Change in Behavior

It is normal for a teenager to have a certain kind of behavioral change. Normal changes include challenging authority a bit more and claiming their independence. What’s not normal is for your child to suddenly start presenting as a different person to you. This can be a sign of depression.

3. Substance Abuse

Most teens experiment a bit with drugs and alcohol. But you should see red flags if your teenager is chronically abusing substances and coming home drunk or high on a fairly regular basis. It is especially important to act immediately if your family has a history of substance abuse.

4. Self-Harm

Those teens who are experiencing significant emotional turmoil may choose to take their emotions out on themselves by cutting, hitting, or hurting themselves in some other manner.

5. Talk of Suicide

While teenagers can definitely be prone to drama and overreacting to events, no parent should ever ignore talk of suicide. With teen suicide rates on the rise, particularly among girls, any mention or attempt should immediately result in professional help.

If you or someone you know has a teenager who is showing one or more of these signs and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to help.

6 Signs Your Teen May Be Depressed

As teens struggle through the tough transition period of childhood into young adulthood, it can be difficult to decipher a teen’s behavior. Are their out-of-control emotions and conduct a result of the natural process of adolescence, or is it something more serious?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016 approximately 3.1 million adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 experienced at least one episode of major depression. Depression is a serious mood disorder that, if left untreated, can cause serious short and long-term mental and even physical health problems. Moreover, depression carries a high risk of suicide.

Below are six signs you can look for to determine if your teen could be experiencing depression.

1. Excessive Crying and Sadness

While emotions tend to run high in most teenagers, excessive crying and sadness that persist for more than two weeks could be a sign of depression.

2. Loss of Interest and Motivation

When a teen is depressed, they may have trouble concentrating. This will cause them to lose motivation and interest in activities they once enjoyed.

3. Problems at School

The loss of concentration and motivation could also result in problems at school. Skipping school, plunging grades and a lack of participation in school and extracurricular activities are all signs that could be pointing to teen depression.

4. Changes in Weight or Eating Habits

Has your teen’s eating habits changed? Are they skipping meals or eating larger portions more frequently? Eating more or less, as well as dramatic changes in weight (either gained or lost) is one of the signs of depression.

5. Withdrawal

Depression causes people to isolate themselves. It’s not uncommon for a depressed teen to begin to withdraw from friends and family, choosing instead to spend time alone or locked in their room. If your teen is depressed, you may notice them begin to avoid spending time with friends and loved ones.

6. Suicidal Ideation

Thoughts or expressions of death or suicide should never be taken lightly. Threats or even jokes about suicide are a cry for help from your teen. If your teen expresses thoughts of suicide, react calmly, and then seek immediate help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you suspect that your teen is experiencing depression, it’s important that you seek professional help from an experienced mental health professional that specializes in treating teens. Call me today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.