Teens going back to school, walking together on campus.

Helping Teens Prepare Mentally to Go Back to School

For teens, the end of each new school year can feel like an entire chapter of their life coming to a close. While summer vacation offers a chance for the dust to settle and for teens to relax, as the time goes on, the sweet serendipity of summer is likely to transition to back-to-school stress as fall approaches. New classes, friends, teachers, extracurriculars, and additional responsibilities might be looming over your teen’s head, keeping them from enjoying the end of their vacation. Essentially, an emotional rollercoaster with unexpected twists and turns waiting just ahead. So, whether your teen is worried about social skills, confidence building, facing new social pressures, or feeling anxious about the start of the new school year, we have outlined  back-to-school tips to reduce stress and help them start the year off  right. 

Establishing Routines

During the school year, teens worked hard to maintain their schedules. Without the daily demands of school, summer might have been a time when they went to bed late, slept in, ate at random times, postponed exercise, and avoided any structure in their day.  

Getting back into the groove of things might be a big source of back-to-school stress for your teen. To make the transition easier, try introducing your family’s typical school year schedule early so they can get used to it. Practice going to sleep on time, waking up early, and getting them organized. While your teen might be stubborn at first, this will help them ease into the new schedule, resulting in less stress as school approaches.

Preparing Mentally

Simply getting used to the idea that school is approaching can be daunting. But, creating a back-to-school self care routine can be instrumental in helping teens figure out how to mentally prepare for school and reduce stress in the process. Whether your teen likes to exercise, journal, or check off their to-do list to decompress, check in with them on ways you can support their mental readiness. 

Keep in mind that students are likely to feel more mentally prepared when they are physically prepared. Offer to help them get the supplies they need to succeed during the year. As they pull together binders, books, pens, and notecards, they can start to get excited for the year ahead. Or at least, know they have one less thing to worry about.

Anticipating Pressures

Each new year means new friends, new responsibilities, and new pressures. Your teen might be worried about an especially difficult year of college applications or facing friends who are pushing them to partake in risky behaviors. Inevitably, dealing with these pressures is one of the most challenging parts of growing up. But luckily, anticipating and preparing for these situations can relieve some of the anxiety your teen might be feeling. 

Start by initiating an open and honest conversation about any pressures your teen is feeling or worries they have about the year ahead. You can talk to them about if they have thought through potentially uncomfortable situations they might face during classes, practices, or parties. If they are willing, you can offer to role play potential scenarios with them so they can feel more firm and prepared in their responses. It might seem awkward or embarrassing for your teen at first, but the skills and forethought your teen will gain could be life changing!

Building Confidence

The range of emotions of a new school year are often a result of the natural falter in confidence that a summer break can bring. Teens might be worried they won’t fit in or that they will struggle in their studies or extracurriculars. So, talk to your teen about the areas of their life they feel like they could use a confidence booster. Work together to assess their concerns and find solutions that make them feel more excited and prepared.

Back-to-school stress might be mediated with practices in confidence building. Encourage them to take a step out of their comfort zone and have daily conversations with themselves through journaling, in the mirror, or using sticky note reminders. Just like role playing, it might feel a little silly at first, but the benefits of routinely hyping themselves up can be a fast track to boosting self-esteem!

At Tilly’s Life Center, we understand that the end of summer vacation and the start of the upcoming school year can cause a whirlwind of emotions as teens feel like they’re beginning a whole new chapter of their lives. This stress, and so many others, are all a part of our mission to provide teen mental health resources that make dealing with all of the daily hardships teens might face easier to tackle. Our social emotional learning curriculum can help teens improve their mental health and face challenging emotions in positive, healthy, and productive ways. To learn more, visit us at www.tillyslifecenter.org