Ahoy, fellow parents! As a marriage and family therapist and a parent to two kids myself, I can’t help but look at the calendar and notice how quickly the next school year is approaching. I understand the challenges that come with piloting our kids through the stormy waters of academics. With summer rapidly coming to an end you may have found yourself thinking (and worrying) about your child going back to school. We know how hard it can be for kids, from homework stress and exam anxiety to social pressures and feelings of overwhelm, our teens can find themselves caught in a whirlpool of emotions. Of course we want our kids to be well prepared to return to school, ready to deal with whatever stressful challenges they may face, and it can be hard to know how to support them. Let’s set the sail to discover how you can help support your teen to use healthy coping mechanisms that will assist them in navigating school with confidence. So, grab your captain’s hat, and read on to learn 9 useful coping tips!
- Acknowledge and Validate the Concerns
As parents, it’s so critical to hear and understand the concerns and pressures our teens face when it comes to school. From heavy workloads, mean teachers, squabbles with friends, and the not so simple task of figuring out college admissions and future learning and career plans, their world can be overwhelming. Start by having open and honest conversations with your teen about their feelings and concerns. Let them know that you understand the challenges they’re facing and that you’re there to support them every step of the way. Make sure not to minimize or dismiss what feels concerning to them.
- Encourage Open Communication
Communication is the wind that fills the sails of any relationship. Encourage your teen to express their thoughts and emotions about school. Create a safe space where they can share all their ups, downs, and in-betweens. Actively listen (put down your phone, make gentle eye contact, nod) without judgment and validate their experiences- these things are absolutely key to keeping communication flowing! This will foster trust and allows you to gain insight into their unique needs and concerns.
- Set Realistic Expectations
While we all want our teens to succeed, it’s important to set realistic expectations for their academic performance and encourage them to define their own realistic expectations for themselves. Every teen has their own strengths, challenges, and learning styles and we can support them by encouraging them to be their own best self. Avoid pressuring them to achieve unrealistic goals or comparing them to their peers or siblings. Focus on their personal growth, progress, and effort. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how big or small, and emphasize the importance of doing their best and enjoying the process, rather than just trying to be perfect.
- Teach Time Management and Organization Skills
Time management is an invaluable skill that is like a compass that helps a teen navigate the sea of assignments, projects, extracurricular activities, and other demands. Encourage and help your teen in creating a schedule to manage their time effectively. Don’t forget to show them how to use technology and electronics to assist- mobile phones have calendar and alarm features that can be so helpful. Help them break down tasks into manageable chunks, set priorities, and create a balance between schoolwork and downtime. By teaching them these skills, you’ll empower them to take control of their academic responsibilities and reduce stress.
- Foster a Growth Mindset
Encourage your teen to embrace a growth mindset—a belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort and perseverance. Teach them to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles to be avoided. Growth mindset helps them to accept where they are now, and feel hopeful about where they want to be. By fostering a growth mindset, you’ll empower your teen to approach academic challenges with resilience and the belief in their own ability to overcome them.
- Promote Healthy Study Habits
Encourage your teen to develop healthy study habits that work for them based on their own needs and ways of thinking. Help them create a quiet and organized study space free from distractions. Teach them effective study techniques such as summarizing information, creating flashcards, or using mnemonic devices. Encourage regular breaks, physical activity, and healthy snacks to keep their minds sharp and energized. Remember, studying should be a voyage of discovery, not an arduous journey!
- Foster a Supportive Network
Just as a ship needs a crew, our teens need a supportive network to weather the challenges of school. Encourage your teen to connect with classmates, join study groups, get tutoring help, or participate in extracurricular activities that align with their interests. These connections provide a sense of camaraderie, support, and the opportunity to share experiences and study tips. Encourage your teen to advocate for themselves by reaching out and communicating with teachers directly when they are struggling. By staying connected with their teachers and school counselors, they can build strong partnerships for continued support.
- Encourage Self-Care and Stress Relief
Navigating the academic seas can be stressful, so it’s important to teach your teen the importance of self-care and stress relief. Help them discover healthy outlets for relaxation and rejuvenation. Encourage activities such as exercise, hobbies, mindfulness, or spending time in nature. Foster a balanced lifestyle that includes sufficient sleep, healthy eating, and leisure time. By prioritizing self-care, your teen will learn to refuel their energy, maintain their mental well-being, and stay afloat amidst the waves of school-related stress.
- Seek Professional Help if Needed
I get that sometimes the seas become too rough for us to navigate alone. If you notice persistent signs of distress, grades significantly dropping, or changes in behavior and mood, consider seeking professional help. A qualified therapist or counselor can provide additional support and guidance tailored to your teen’s specific needs. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, and professional intervention can make a significant difference in your teen’s well-being.
By implementing these strategies and guiding our teens with a steady hand, we can help them develop healthy coping mechanisms for school. Remember, it’s all about open communication, setting realistic expectations, teaching valuable skills, fostering support networks, and promoting self-care. So, grab your compass, navigate the academic seas with confidence, and together we’ll sail towards success and well-being for our teens.
Fair winds and following seas fellow parents!