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: 

Dominique received her Masters from DePaul University in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Her clinical experiences include working at a non-profit helping kids, teens, adolescents and adults experiencing trauma. Prior to working at NVisionYou, Dominique worked in private practice specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, OCD, specific phobias, trichotillomania and other stress-related disorders. Dominique is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is board certified. Dominique is also on the public education committee for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America where she aims to improve and expand public education and outreach about anxiety, depression and co-occurring disorders through website content, webinars, blog posts, social media outreach and other collaborative educational projects.