Helping Your Teen Transition from Summer to School

A good plan of action can go a long way.

Posted Sep 07, 2018

Summer can be an awful time for teen stress, anxiety, and mental health flare-ups, so what are parents supposed to do when their teens keep suffering through that first semester? 

There isn’t a teacher or student (or former student) who can deny the “Sunday blues” that happen every week, when the prospect of the coming week triggers anxiety, stress, or bouts of depression. Those assignments we saved for “Saturday" that we put off until late Sunday night (or early Monday morning) and the pressures of seeing you-know-who in the hallway or class can make for a pressure-cooker of a weekly mental meal.

Now imagine the end of summer!

We stress out, trying to fit in school reading, enough relaxed days at home or on vacation, and whatever it was we wanted to accomplish before a year of classroom-sitting and after-school activities.  

So what can we do as caretakers, professionals, and parents to ensure that our kids are finding a smooth transition before Labor Day comes and blows our summer away? 

Tackle the future head-on

If your teen suffers from bouts of unmanageable depression, anxiety, or stress, make a schedule or loose calendar of when and where to address upcoming triggers--it may be weekly check-ins with a trusted teacher or health professional, or just a night of planned talking about how they’re feeling.

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Teen School
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Coffee after-school on Wednesdays, homework-free nights, or movie nights that go a little late may be the “real world” therapy that your teen needs to balance out the rest of the “work” week. 

If your teen gets overwhelmed the night before a project is due, then make a strict plan to tackle assignments a few days before they’re due (if possible) along with a plan to work with a teacher or friend who understands what works best in terms of mental stability. 

Join that team

Sports teams, after-school clubs, or a community group that meets once or several times a week can be the perfect distraction from weekly work stress and even increase chances of social-normalization (if you have an anxious or child unwilling to be overtly social).

Not every sports team is competitive and not every club is demanding—and if your teen picks only one thing to join, then take that step as success to be built on.

The more active teenagers are in school beyond the bell, the more they will own their education and place in the school community. And if they find a club or program that gives them a great sense of well-being and success, let them push it to their pace without pressure to make it the thing that solely defines them. 

Find that teacher after school

If there is a classroom or program that stays open for work or help or a teacher who stays late and can host your teen, encourage that connection to alone time or one-on-one help or talk time. Most teachers stay in their classroom until at least an hour after school, and teens who make that friendly connection can benefit from low-stress and low-anxiety help away from a crowded classroom.

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Teacher
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As a parent, keep on top of your student’s teacher list, and check in with teachers who offer help—make sure that it’s okay for your teen to stay late, and that they’re engaging in healthy behavior.

Don’t assume the teacher is doing all the helping with your child’s mental status, but trust that your teen is finding her way.

The benefits can last a lifetime, and connect your teen in ways that you’ve experienced throughout your own life. 

Let them know it’s okay if they’re not an A student

The truth is that we forget most of what we learn in school anyway—from specific dates and characteristics to the details about events that we may pride ourselves on.

Think back to your favorite class or subject: Do you remember any of it the way you did the day of the test?

No—unless you have hyperthymesiac or eidetic memory.

Talk with your teen about the goals they want to set and realistically what they want to achieve--either for college, post-high school, or a personal best. If they’re struggling to get an A in every subject, allow them the freedom to get a grade they’re proud of no matter what. Let them know why knowledge is important in the first place, and that a job well done is the best reward (even if it gets a C+).  It's not about lowering your standards, it's about helping them learn to build towards them.

Whatever gives them a sense of belonging, purpose and value, pursue it in a healthy manner

That whole “What would you do if you didn’t have to work for money?” question applies to everyone, whether they’re working for grades or they’re trying to please a parent or teacher. If your teen was stress- or anxiety-free, what would they do?

If they could avoid the drag of persistent depression, what goals would they set?

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Highschool Senior
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We want our children to be healthy no matter what, and exposing them to a school week (or year) full of unnecessary stress and demand just doesn’t make sense.

Whatever the case, approach the year with hope, caution, and healthy attitudes. Before you know it you’ll be at graduation day sharing a wide open future with your teen.

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