Helping Teens Navigate the Stress of a New School Year

Helping Teens Navigate the Stress of a New School Year

For some, the start of a new school year can lead to feelings of excitement and opportunity. For others, it can lead to increased stress and feeling lost on how to manage. Stress is a normative human experience and our body’s way of navigating life’s demands. However, when not managed properly, stress can lead to more serious issues such as anxiety and depression. But the good news is that there are ways for parents and guardians to help their teens reduce stress for the upcoming school year.

Knowing When to Seek Help

It is important to be able to identify signs and symptoms of unmanaged stress and know when to seek help from a mental health professional. Occasional struggles with feeling anxious or sad is normal, however negative emotional or behavioral changes from your teen’s baseline is not. Common signs and symptoms of concern include:

  • A general depressed or anxious mood,
  • Decreased motivation,
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits,
  • Social withdrawal,
  • Suicidal thoughts,
  • Self-harming behavior, etc. 

The Importance of Self-Care

Self-care is needed to appropriately manage the stress of life’s demands. Areas of consideration include eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, maintaining hygiene, engaging in meaningful activities, using support systems, engaging in religious practices if applicable, and managing physical health.

Minimizing media consumption is another way to reduce stress. It may be challenging, but you can help teens by limiting screen time, praising positive behaviors, and encouraging self-compassion. Further, teaching them coping strategies will set your teen up for success when handling difficult situations. Coping strategies include deep belly breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation in which they tighten and relax muscle groups in a specific pattern.

Being Proactive

Often the fear of the unknown is one of the most stressful aspects for the upcoming school year. You can ease some of the concern your teen has by being aware of the school schedule, arranging a tour of the building to locate classrooms, and becoming involved with the school to develop a relationship with the staff. As well, it is helpful to get your household back to a school routine a week or two before classes start (e.g., going to bed at a set time and waking up earlier).

Remember, you are not alone in wanting the best for your teen. Look into the resources you have at hand. For example, school counseling services may include classroom lessons on social-emotional learning, academic support, postsecondary planning, student support groups, and crisis resources. These resources are often provided for free.

Creating Open Communication

Developing a habit of open communication with your teen will improve stress management and confidence for the upcoming school year. Ask them about their stress, encourage them to communicate, and demonstrate a level of concern. Practice active listening skills such as paying attention, showing that you are listening, providing feedback, deferring judgment, and responding appropriately. Social concerns are just as valid as academic ones, as healthy socialization is necessary for adolescent psychosocial development. If your teen is defiant or oppositional, you should ask and listen to what is going on. It could be a symptom of ADHD, a learning disability, home troubles, etc.

If your teen is in need of professional support in coping with depression, stress and anxiety, anger, relationships with parents/teachers, or just getting ready for the new school year, you can contact Lone Star Circle of Care at 877-800-5722 to schedule an appointment with a therapist. We are here to help.

Blog post written by Austin Cannaday, LPC 
Lone Star Circle of Care


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