Back-to-school time often means new school supplies, shopping for new outfits and for some teens, major anxiety. During the teen years, your child is learning how she fits in among her peers. That, paired with the newness of another year or the stress of a heavy course load, can leave your teen diving for the covers come the first day of school. By prepping her carefully, you can help ease some of her back-to-school jitters -- or get her the help she needs.
Talk to your teen about what's really bothering her. Whether it's been a long summer or your teen has taken some time off, there's probably more to her anxiety than just jitters. She might be having issues with her peers or be anxious about her grades. Let her know that you're available to talk about why she's anxious about going back to school.
Normalize and validate your teen's reasons for feeling anxious. It can be easy to wave away anxieties that you deem unimportant, but remember that to your teen, they're extremely important. Saying "You're scared that you don't have friends? That's silly; you'll make new ones!" might seem helpful, but it downplays your teen's real worries. Instead, try "I know how you feel. There were times when I was a teenager that I felt alone too." Your teen needs understanding and to hear that she's normal.
Visit the school before your teen has to go back, and spend time helping her feel more prepared. Checking out her schedule, meeting with teachers and getting the lay of the land can help when your teen is nervous about a new school or a new schedule, notes the UNC Health Care System. Going to school before the year starts means your teen can feel prepared without the pressure of the school being filled with kids and teachers on her first day back.
Put safeguards in place that help your teen feel more confident about going back to school. Whether it's a new outfit, her locker combination on a sticky note or checking in with you at lunch, she should know that not everything will go perfectly -- but that's okay. By being prepped for anything, she can calm down and tackle her first day head on.
Check your own mood and reactions to things. If your teen senses that you're anxious about her heading back to school, she might pick up on your mood and project it onto herself. Instead, be positive and calm -- at least on the surface.
Watch for signs of teen depression, which often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety, warns PsychCentral.com. If your teen withdraws socially, has sudden changes in appearance,experiences mood swings, is often sad or doesn't enjoy the things she used to, head to your family doctor for a mental health referral and help for your anxious teen.