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Transitioning Back to School

Blog post written by,

Ara Mascarenas, M.S

Registered Intern for Mental health Counselor Licensure


Going back to school after the summer break can cause a lot of stress for parents and their children. For some, this transition involves worries about academic demands, peer interactions, making new friends, and getting along with teachers. Even though it is normal to feel this way and many times these are short-lived emotional responses, there are times in which these feelings can be long-lasting. Some examples of long-lasting emotional responses include poor academic adjustment, inability to socialize with friends, and issues with performance. Transitioning back to school is also influenced by a variety of biological and emotional changes such as hormonal changes, which can trigger increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Returning to school is a point of tension for both parents and their children. In my experience, I’ve had parents share comments like “I am starting to get mom anxiety about my child starting middle school.” I’ve also heard my teen clients express “I don’t want the pressure of going back to school and having to focus on grades.” Even though transition periods are a necessary part of development and growth, there are some tools that can be implemented to facilitate this process.


Parents can provide support to their children as they adjust to coming back to school

by showing interest and getting involved in their school activities and socialization and being available to discuss school performance with a non-judgmental stance. Sometimes parents want to make connections with their teens but don’t necessarily know how to navigate this. Parents can implement a technology-free dinner or a “No technology Thursdays” to foster chances of connection. They can also get involved in an activity that their teen likes such as sitting down and showing interest in how to play their favorite video game or offering to help them with their band rehearsal. As little as spending just 15 minutes between parent and child with no distractions and asking the child about their day, can make a big impact in improving the child’s ability to deal with the stressors of transitioning back to school.


Another way in which parents can provide support is by forming a stronger attachment with their child or teen. For example, parents can encourage their teens to share their thoughts and feelings and validate their child’s responses. Paying close attention to how they are feeling and noticing their behavior can not only increase connection but allows the opportunity for the parent to provide support. Below are a few examples of encouraging and validating statements parents can use to start off a conversation.


· Tell me more about your teachers…

  • Help me understand what you are thinking when you say…

  • I want to hear about your day at school today…

  • I’ve noticed that you’ve…

  • It makes sense that you feel … (scared, frustrated, sad…)

  • I can see how you would see it that way because sometimes I do . . .

  • What do you need from me right now?

Lastly, it is important to consider that social and emotional skills are not fully developed in teens and adolescents. A great way in which parents can provide support during transition periods is by helping the child identify how they might be feeling by labeling emotions for them. A child might be feeling angry and decide to kick and scream. At this time, a parent might try to state “I see you are angry and upset. Let me know when you are calm so we can talk about it”. A teenager might be feeling anxious and frustrated at school and come home to lock themselves in their room, not eat, and have an irritable temper. A parent can say “I’ve noticed you haven’t been coming down for dinner, perhaps you are feeling anxious about something?”. Having open conversations and labeling their emotions for a child or teen can increase their emotional language to properly express what they are feeling.


The process of coming back to school is a complicated one and it’s important that parents remain compassionate toward themselves. Even though navigating these waters is not easy, it is possible. If you need help guiding your child or adolescent through this process, please contact Home for Balance and receive a FREE phone consult and information about our services. You don’t need to parent alone


Below is one free resource for you to download!


Reference:

Măirean, C., Zancu, A. S., & Diaconu‐Gherasim, L. R. (2022). Children's anxiety, academic self‐efficacy, and intergenerational transmission of worries regarding the transition to middle school. British Journal of Educational Psychology, , 13. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12530


 

Ara Mascarenas, M.S


Registered Intern for Mental health Counselor Licensure

I am interested in working with children, adolescents, and their families who are currently struggling with anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues. For more information about working with me and to get a FREE 30-minute phone consult, please call at 954.850.6633 or email me at aramascarenasmhc@gmail.com.


Services available in English/Spanish and Online.



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