by Dominique Apollon, MA, LPC, NCC

The “unknown” is anxiety provoking for just about everyone. So how will this upcoming school year be for our teens? We don't know, and neither do they. Rightfully so, this time of year can generate lots of emotions; feelings of happiness for new school supplies, reuniting with friends and some new back to school clothes, but it can also bring up feelings of fear. The dreadful feelings associated with summer ending, the fear of new classes, new teachers and being in a new grade can all make those feelings of uncertainty and discomfort increase. Want to help your teen overcome and conquer this upcoming school year? Here are 4 tips to do so!

1) Educate, Validate and Empower Them
Educate your teens about anxiety and its benefits. Allow them to understand the goal of our anxiety and explain that it’s meant to protect us but occasionally misfires and becomes a little overprotective. Take some time to review the fight or flight process with them so they understand what is happening to their body. After going over what anxiety is and how it plays out in our brain and body, It’s important to validate your child’s feelings of fear around going back to school. Think about how anxious you were when you started your first job, what thoughts came up for you then? How did you feel and act? Let them know that we all experience these feelings and that it’s okay. Lastly, empower them to understand that they are a warrior and a teacher. Their job is to train their brain by challenging those anxious thoughts by embracing them instead of pushing them away. Remember: Anxiety is not the enemy!

2) Create a Routine
We all benefit from having structure in our day. Prior to school starting, create a routine with your teen on what they envision their days to look like. Getting clothes ready the night before, creating a consistent sleeping schedule, eating a hearty breakfast, packing their backpack, leaving for school, coming home, doing homework, eating dinner, having screen time (as needed), going to sleep and repeat. Figure out what makes the most sense with your teen’s schedule. It’s important to be flexible with time, allowing room for uncertainties and unexpected mishaps that are bound to arise. This will help them embrace change.

3) Setting Realistic Expectations 
Now this is where parents can be really helpful. Instead of setting the expectations for the school year as “getting straight A’s” learn how to set more realistic and measurable goals and expectations WITH your teen. This allows them to feel empowered and puts less pressure on them. By working together, instead of setting expectations FOR them, allows for a trusting and fostering environment where those A’s can still happen, but allowing room for imperfection. Remember that perfectionism is bound to breed anxiety.

4) Implement a Holistic Approach to Caring for your Teen 
This is another important one that we tend to unintentionally leave out. While grades and homework are important, it is essential that as parents, you are expressing interest in your teen with a holistic lens. This means, not only asking them how they are doing in school and what their grades are like, but this means diving deeper and touching base on how their social life is, extra-curricular activities, how they like their teachers, and helping them implement self-care at a young age.

Going back to school doesn’t have to be so scary. While those are only 4 tips to reduce the back to school blues, there are endless ways to support our kids through the school year. It’s important to draw on their strengths and continue to encourage and empower them to see how brave and incredible they truly are. 

For more information or to schedule a consultation with a mental health professional, feel free to visit our website

About the author: 

Sometimes life presents us with unthinkable challenges, and we feel lost in the chaos of it all. This may cause us to spiral down the rabbit hole, forcing us to get caught in the cycle of negative thoughts that holds us back from creating positive changes in our lives. Despite our best efforts, we still find ourselves dealing with anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, low self-esteem, pressures from work and an inability to find balance in our lives. You might feel stuck in patterns of thoughts or behaviors that are making it hard for you to fully engage in life.  This may lead you to feeling powerless and alone asking yourself, “how can I do better?” Everything can feel more difficult when things seem out of our control. When we strengthen the relationships with ourselves, it reboots our mind body connection, allowing life to feel more manageable, balanced and fulfilling. 

My therapeutic style is holistic, considering the whole person with deep respect instead of focusing solely on the current symptoms you may come in with. I apply principles of evidence-based treatments while implementing mindfulness-based techniques. I do this through working collaboratively, with compassion, acceptance and humor. As your therapist, my goal is to help you learn the skills that will help highlight your strengths, lower stress levels and allow you to live more mindfully. I strive to help you discover what it means to live intuitively, embrace your vulnerabilities and learn how to challenge and face uncertainty with more confidence. I will guide you on how to be present and deepen your relationships with others, so you will leave feeling empowered and ready to live more authentically.