Though the autumnal equinox isn’t until Sept. 22, many people consider Labor Day to mark the unofficial end of summer, which means back-to-school season is in full swing. If your teen has recently started school again or you’re gearing up to begin a brand-new school year, here are some tips to smooth the path and make it less stressful.
1. Provide Reassurance
A new school year can be an anxiety-inducing time for adolescents, especially those who are starting at a new school or transitioning from middle school to high school. The teenage years are also a challenging and confusing time from an emotional perspective. Your son’s body image might have changed drastically over the summer due to puberty. He may also be worried about his ability to make friends, maintain good grades or excel in his favorite extracurricular activities.
While teenagers may not mention their concerns to you, that doesn’t make them any less real or valid. Once you understand what your son is nervous about, you can proactively help him tackle those fears, instead of trying to dismiss them or sweep them under the rug. For example, if your child is anxious about his ability to fit in and get along with others, remind him of times he has successfully made friends in the past, or suggest fun ways he could meet new people who share his interests.
2. Develop a New Routine and Study Habits
While many teachers and students were already familiar with the phenomenon of summer learning loss, the switch to remote learning during COVID-19 exacerbated this problem by interrupting traditional academic models. A teen’s return to the classroom after months of virtual learning is an excellent opportunity to start new routines and encourage healthy homework habits.
If your family’s schedule lacked structure over the summer, gradually adjust to one that’s closer to a typical school day. That way, going to bed and getting up earlier won’t feel like such an abrupt change. You can also adapt other aspects of your family’s routine, such as meals, chores and leisure activities, to help your teen learn the time-management skills that are so essential in high school and beyond.
3. Get – and Stay – Involved
While some parents prefer to shift to a more hands-off role as their children get older, nobody ever outgrows the need for practical advice. Remember, you are your son’s first role model, and your influence on his life will never cease to matter. Students may rely on their parents more than ever during the high school years, even if your primary role is to offer unwavering support amid this turbulent life phase.
You can get involved without becoming a “helicopter parent.” Keep up with developments at school and meet all your child’s teachers and coaches. To get to know your son’s friends, make your home a welcoming place to hang out. Offer to drive them to sports practice or other extracurricular activities so you know where your child is going and who they are spending time with.
4. Be an Active Listener
If your son needs someone to talk to, reassure him you’re always available for a chat, and that no topic is off-limits. Since some adolescents become withdrawn and secretive during the teen years, it may help you to educate yourself on the difference between typical teenage angst and health issues such as depression or substance abuse. Regularly encourage two-way conversation by asking your child questions about his day and what he learned at school. While these questions may seem mundane to you, they indicate that you are interested and engaged.
Is an Alternative School Right for Your Family?
If you think back to how much growth and change you experienced in your teenage years, you can understand why your son might sometimes lash out or refuse to discuss his emotions. An alternative school provides the additional structure and individualized attention a typical high school may be unable to match. At ARCH Academy, we have structured our program to provide outstanding academics alongside clinical care in a single-gender environment. To learn more about the services we provide, please reach out to us today.