Adolescent Anxiety And The Transition To Middle Or High School

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Adolescent anxiety can mark a big change in your child’s life: from elementary to middle school, or from middle to high school. It can come after a move to a new town or after a divorce, and it can bring with it depression, mood swings, and behavioral changes that make you feel like you don’t even know your own child. It’s important, then, to understand the reason anxiety can crop up, how to deal with it in the moment, and how to help prevent it down the road.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can help your child when there’s a big transition such as changing schools on the horizon. Here are some of the best.

Get all the information you can

Anxiety is often fueled by the unknown, so it’s important to help your child get all the information possible about his new school. Make it a point to attend the school’s open house before the new school year begins, or, if you’re moving in the middle of the year, call and ask if you can set up a tour so things won’t be brand new for your child on the first day. Let him get acquainted with his teacher, and find out if any of his friends from the previous year will be in his class. Be sure to ask the teacher what her expectations are as far as behavior, as it will likely be very different than what your child is used to. Middle school is a pretty different place from elementary school, as kids are expected to be a bit more independent and mature in the classroom.

Help your child prepare for the school year by having all his supplies ready early, and consider hiring a tutor if you feel he’s not adjusting to the new academic schedule well. Tutoring can help a child boost self-esteem as well as raise those grades.

It’s also important to prepare your child for the possibility that he’ll have more homework, different school hours, and a new set of rules to abide by at home.

Ask for advice

It might be helpful for your child to have an older kid to sort of show him the ropes, so if you have a neighbor who goes to the new school, or a family member, ask them to help your child get acquainted with things a bit.

Educate your child about social media

As your child gets a little older, it stands to reason that he might be spending more time on social media (or using it for the first time), so it’s important to talk to him about how to do it safely and in a healthy way. Limit screen time--which can help your child relax before bed and get a better night’s sleep--and educate him on online bullying and predators. Help him make good decisions so that you won’t worry about his actions when you’re not with him.

Know that high school is a different beast

High school can be a fun experience for some kids, but for others, it’s a dangerous place full of peer pressure and worries about fitting in or looking stupid in front of older kids. Talk to your child about some of the challenges he may face as a freshman, and open up about your own experiences in high school. Drugs, sex, and poor grades affect many high school kids, as hard as it is to think about, so make sure your child has all the emotional tools he needs to get through it as stress-free as possible.

Try to stay patient with your child and remember to reach out for help if the anxiety is becoming too much for either of you to handle.


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