When Your Teen Isn’t Ready to Go Back to School

I hear the sighs of relief and the shouts of joy from parents as the first day of school draws near.  I also hear the groans and the tears from the teens who are experiencing the back to school blues.  

This time of year brings a mixture of frustration and excitement for teens. They love getting new school clothes, seeing their friends again and driving themselves to school, for those who have a license. But they don’t relish the returning structure of earlier bed times, homework and the possibility of getting Mr. or Mrs. Meanest-Teacher-Ever for a teacher.

Even though our teens have been through the going-back-to-school scene for years, they still need our help to make that transition as smooth as possible.  Consider these practical things you can do as a parent.

Express expectations clearly. Now is the time to establish expectations and goals for the coming school year.

  • Do they need reminders about who can be in the car with them when they’re driving?
  • Are you revisiting curfews?
  • Are you creating space for homework? It’s a great idea to set up a special area for kids to do their homework — not in their room where they are isolated and have too many distractions. Talk through the what, when, where and why. That will cut any arguments during the school year over getting his work completed.

Have those conversations before school starts so your teens understand your expectations.

Go over their schedule with them. Several weeks before school starts, your teens will probably receive their class schedule. This is a good time to talk with them about their classes and teachers, along with any potential problems or concerns. Then together, strategize ways they can respond to those issues in a healthy way.

Help them get organized. Sometimes the stress of the new and unknown can overwhelm teens. By guiding them to take baby steps, you can help relieve some of that stress. I know one family who together pulled out all the notebooks and binders and put them in order of class schedule, marking each subject and period number. So simple, but it dramatically reduced their teen’s stress. Help your teens think through how they’d like to organize their locker, supplies and clothes. By brainstorming with them (not for them), you can bring a sense of excitement to an otherwise mundane task.

Once you and your teens have eliminated possible stress points, you can focus on making sure stress stays at bay by balancing school, social and personal time.

Encourage sleep. Teens need sleep — and a lot of it. But with smartphones, Netflix and extracurricular activities, sleep often gets pushed aside. And when teens are sleep deprived, they’re cranky and don’t handle stress well. All the adults can relate to this!  Since a regular bedtime is healthy and necessary for academic success, start at least a week before school by making sure your teens get to bed at a decent hour. (Studies suggest they need at least nine hours of sleep a night.) That also means they disconnect from technology. Have them leave their mobile devices and laptops outside their bedroom at night. I know parents who have a technology “box” where everything gets stored by 9 p.m. Why let your teens get distracted through the night with texts and other temptations to stay awake?  And trust me when I say they DO get distracted throughout the night by technology even if they swear otherwise.

Limit extracurricular activities. No, your teens don’t have to be involved in everything. This could be a whole other blog but don’t get me started on that.  Let them pick an activity a semester. If the activities are adding to their stress load, however, you don’t have to feel guilty about saying no.  This is a life lesson about balance. One that, as parents, we need to be modeling.  

Milton Berle was probably thinking about teenagers when he said, “The human brain is special. It starts working as soon as you get up, and it doesn’t stop until you get to school.” Of course he was kidding (or was he), but parents can do a lot for their teens by teaching them that with school, along with so many things in life, it’s the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Starting on the right track with good back-to-school decisions can help teens, and parents, adjust to a new school year.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

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