Steps to Help Youth Cope With Back-to-School Anxiety

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Youth are experiencing extreme anxiety, grief, and stress as a result of the pandemic. Especially at this time of year, the thought of going back to school can trigger many insecurities, anxieties, and fear for youth. We wanted to share some tips with parents, youth mentors, and our partner organizations on how to ease back-to-school anxiety for youth and help them be successful with this transition.

In the blog RaisingTeenagers authored by Collett Smart, a psychologist with 25 years of experience working in private and public schools, Smart shares tips to help teens feel better about going back to school.

Suggestions for Supporting Youth (Adapted from Raising Teenagers Blog)
  1. Connect with youth. Connect with teens on a regular basis to let them know you are there for support. It only takes 10 minutes of focused time to help youth them feel connected to you.
  2. Listen when they are ready to talk. Allow teens time for emotional expression through venting and naming emotions. Then make sure that you acknowledge their fears, anxieties, and sadness as legitimate by trying not to over-reassure or minimize them.
  3. Give youth emotional support tools. Help teens find courage to deal with their fears by thinking of ways they overcame their fears in other situations. Give them some "worry time" by setting aside a certain time of day where they can express all of their concerns.
  4. Speak with a calm voice. Model a calm manner when speaking with teens and then help youth plan the steps they will take for getting back in to their school routine.
  5. Give youth an activity that reduces stress. There are many options that can help reduce daily stress like mindful breathing, exercise, quiet time or warm baths. What works best will be unique to each teen.
  6. Encourage social time. Give teens some small social goals and take things week by week.
  7. Give them hope. Encourage them to think of things they would like to do or places to go in the next year or so. Providing time to dream can give teens hope.

Some anxiety about returning back to school is normal and for some youth who are sensitive to change it could be especially challenging. If you feel like the youth in your life suffer from depression, severe anxiety or some other mental health challenges then feel free to discuss additional support options with the student's teacher or school administrators to see what support services are available. LPYS programs are integrated into the local school system and bring critical support to youth when they need it most.

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