The beginning of the school year can make children and teens anxious, whether they are transitioning into a new school or returning to one they are familiar with. For students who already cope with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, these fears can be exacerbated. The unknown factors of a new grade with higher-level classes can make students feel out of control and stressed, but there are ways to mitigate those fears.
Set up a routine for yourself and your child so they know what’s expected of them every day. This can help them learn time management skills as well as relieve stress that can emerge if kids get in the habit of procrastination. Routines are especially helpful for kids on the spectrum or kids who experience anxiety. When they know what’s coming next, they can focus on staying in the moment and finishing tasks one by one, helping them feel less overwhelmed through assignments.
Try establishing a “place” for everything to keep clutter from collecting. When your child comes home from school, they should know where to put their backpack, shoes and lunchbox. Taking a few moments to tidy up a workstation can actually help issues with focus. A 2009 study examined the relationship between clutter and mental state, and what they found was fascinating. Participants who described their home as cluttered were on average more depressed and had higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. In comparison, participants who described their homes as restful and restorative had lower levels of both feelings of depression and cortisol. Creating a calm environment at home where a student feels comfortable to complete assignments supports what happens at school.
Whether it’s meditation, yoga, or simply taking a few moments to breathe, getting in the habit of being mindful can have great effects on your child’s stress levels. Students can become overwhelmed by assignments or new expectations, and mindfulness can help them understand their feelings. When students understand why they are becoming frustrated, they can begin problem solving or ask for help and support. Self-reflection is a vital part of problem solving. When done in a low-stress setting, students can create a clearer vision of the task at hand.
Students with learning disabilities, be it ADHD or dyslexia, can be prone to abandoning schoolwork. When combined with a mental illness like depression or anxiety, students may begin to show signs of school refusal. School refusal is a behavioral condition where students are so burdened by psychological issues that their academic performance is being negatively affected. It can also manifest by experiencing issues in their social lives, as well as becoming physically ill. It’s important to reach out to professionals to help your child cope with school refusal to get them back on track.
Support healthy homework habits
Your role as a supportive parent is important to your child. However, studies show that parents who struggled with math in school can exacerbate math anxiety in their child. This applies to many topics that may have become fuzzy to parents over the years. Instead of struggling through homework with your child, try outside forms of help. Find an effective tutor that your child responds positively to and explore educational apps that help learning.
You can talk directly to your child’s teacher about what you’re seeing at home so they can suggest solutions. Creating an open line of communication with teachers can empower you and your child be proactive in challenging subjects. Family therapy is a great way for your child to let you in on how they’re feeling in school. Your level of involvement in their schoolwork should hinge on their comfort level, not yours.
Get enough sleep
Teens need more sleep than they get on average, so it’s important to help your child find a nightly routine that gets them to bed at a reasonable hour. Encouraging them to read at night instead of spending hours on devices helps their brain settle into a calmer state. Strict bedtimes tend to be ineffective for teens, as they are establishing their own sense of independence. Still, going to bed at a regular hour every night can help them fall asleep easier.
Help them create a routine for what time they go to bed, and how they can prepare for the next day. Suggest that they pack their lunch, set out an outfit, or shower at night so mornings feel longer and less stressful. There will inevitably be late nights spent on assignments, and teens need to get in the habit of balancing those nights with earlier nights. This can help them prepare for college if they choose to go down the path of higher education. Talk about how sleep is an act of self-love and self-care.
How Sage Day Approaches School
At Sage Day Schools, we offer a wide variety of services to support students and families in a therapeutic environment. If you’re thinking of switching your child to a therapeutic high school, consider the approach Sage Day takes with their students.
Sage is an acronym for Success, Achievement, Growth and Empowerment. Students are supported by a team-approach to education which creates a community of educators with the purpose of ensuring each student can succeed despite emotional issues. School refusal behavior is addressed and resolved once students experience the positive effects of therapeutic education.
Therapy and academics are integrated and customized for each student’s needs, including:
- 2x per week: One on one therapy
- 2x per week: Collaborative group therapy
- 1x per week: Family therapy after school hours
- Time during the school day to discover and pursue new interests and passions
- Personalized learning for enrichment or remediation
- Personalized transition plans for Postsecondary Life