As parents with teenagers, we look forward to spending the summer with our kids. Vacations are planned, trips are taken, and memories are made for a lifetime!
And around this time of year, parents of teenagers may be looking forward to the start of another school year. And when is the best time to start in helping your teenager transition back to school? Start today.
Life Transitions & Stress
Transitions for any of us can be stressful. Think about the times when you've experienced transitions in your life:
Going to college
Getting your first job after college
Being promoted to a new position
Starting a new and different job
Becoming a parent
Moved to a different house
Moved to a new city
While these transitions can be fun and exciting, a degree of stress also accompanies them. As adults, we have experienced other life transitions that help given us the experience on how to deal with transitions.
Teenagers and young adults are in that stage of learning how to deal effectively with them. This is where parents come in. There are tips and strategies to help teach our teens and young adults how to successfully navigate challenging life transitions.
And returning to school after summer would count as one of those challenging, life transitions at their age.
Teenagers Stress Rivals That of Adults
The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a survey in 2014. This survey asked questions of adults and how they report the levels of stress in their lives. It also sought to find out the levels of stress reported in a teenager's life.
What the survey discovered was that today's teenagers say they experience stress in patterns similar to adults. And, when school is in, teenagers report stress levels higher than those reported by adults.
Keep in mind, this survey was conducted in 2014. Life was a bit more stable and predictable pre-COVID. Since COVID has hit, mental health has become a "national emergency" according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children's National Hospital.
What Our Teen Counselors Are Seeing
The academics in our school system is very competitive. This can help prepare many teenagers for the rigors of college.
And due to the competitiveness of our schools, we have also seen an increasing number of teenagers with:
In teen counseling and young adult therapy, it is not uncommon for teens to identify the pressures of school as a main contributor to their emotional struggles. Helping teenagers balance the demands of school, extracurricular activities, work, and social life is often a focus in therapy.
With school right around the corner, we may see an increase in emotional or behavioral challenges. Teenagers may start to anticipate the return of high stress levels as it relates to school.
How to Help Teenagers Transition Back to School
Summertime is full of freedom and flexibility in schedules. It's almost a rite of passage for teenagers, during the summer, to pull "all nighters". By the very nature of summertime, schedules start to loosen and structure becomes less.
So how do we help our teenagers transition from less structure to high structure? They key is to start early and don't wait.
1. Frontload Your Teenagers
Your teenager may be expecting a shift in schedule as the start of school approaches. But I guarantee you they will not bring it up. They will push that off as long as possible as they want to squeeze out as much of summertime as they can get.
This is why it is important to talk to your teenagers ahead of time. Let them know the plan to start to get ready for the start of school by adjusting a few things. No one likes things sprung on them and change can be hard.
2. Invite Them to Be a Part of the Conversation
Teenagers are maturing into young adults. They want to be a part of important decisions and conversations, especially when it impacts their lives.
I use the term "invite" as they need to understand that the conversation should be a "win-win" conversation. This means that the parents won't get 100% of what they may prefer. And this also means that the teenager won't get 100% of what they prefer.
If they can agree to this, then they are "invited" to the conversation and can help craft the decisions. If there is a lot of arguing, defensiveness, or resistance, they won't be invited to the conversation and the decisions will be largely made for them.
Most teenagers will understand and appreciate the win-win approach. I encourage parents to find ways to be flexible in some areas in these decisions. Teenagers have great ideas and suggestions, sometimes things that we as parents don't see.
Identify those suggestions that, while may not be fully what you would prefer, still work to accomplish the same ends. This will help the teenager be a part of the decision making and increase the chances they will follow through with your expectations.
3. Start to Adjust the Time They go to Bed & Wake Up
One thing that can help with stress and other emotional challenges is getting adequate sleep. This is true for teenagers as well as for adults. According to John Hopkins Medicine, teenagers should get 9.5 hours of sleep a night. And this is restful, uninterrupted sleep.
Now, I'm a realist. In the summertime, this may be possible. And in fact, should be encouraged as much as possible leading up to school.
Because when school is in, I'm lucky to get my teenage and young adult clients to get 8 hours or restful, uninterrupted sleep at night. I find that the rigors of school and extracurricular activities in in our ISDs tend not to be too conducive to adequate sleep.
As parents, whatever you can do to have your teen get in between 8-9.5 hours of sleep will go a long way in helping their stress levels. Getting adequate sleep will also help with focus and concentration. Which in turn will result in better school performance.
Come up with a reasonable plan to help your teenager mirror the sleep schedule that is needed when school starts. You can gradually have them go to bed earlier and wake up earlier until it matches what is required for school. Or you can rip the band aid off and start immediately. Or something in between.
Whatever you do, start now. Waiting until school starts to adjust the sleep schedule can create more stress and difficulty in transitioning back to school.
4. The Dreaded Screen Time Conversation
Many parents steel themselves for this conversation. We know that conversations around limiting screen time can be very challenging.
My experience has been that if a teenager or young adult has the availability to use their screen, they will likely use it. This includes during the night when they should be sleeping.
The playground is no longer outside the house, it's on the screen in front of your teenager. This is where much of their social life occurs. And there are other teens awake at night keeping your teen up at night if they are allowed their devices.
As you start to talk about adjusting the bedtime and wake up time schedule, include the talk around screen time. It's important that when it's time to go to bed, this also includes bedtime for the screens.
If it's not already an expectation, make an expectation that the devices be charged in a common area, away from their rooms. It's too tempting for a teenager to wake up at night and not want to hop on their device if there is easy access.
However, if they have to:
Get out of bed,
go back upstairs,
then downstairs again to put it back,
then up again to go to bed, they are less likely to use their device interrupting their sleep.
Talk to your teenager about when it's time for bed, the devices are also put up. This includes phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, etc.
Reinforce the importance of sleep (and you'll likely get the eye roll) and how it will help them be happier and more successful. They may not like it, they may not agree, but there is so much research around this that they can't deny it.
5. Expect Some Regression
Transitions are hard. Transitioning back to school after a summer full of fun is even harder. Your teen may be grumpier than usual while they get adjusted to the routine.
This is one reason why starting to adjust their schedule now will better prepare them for when school starts. A gradual return to the school schedule is often better than a sudden change.
When to Start Teen Counseling or Young Adult Therapy
If your teen or young adult struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, depression, ADHD/ADD at the end of last school year, it may be that they will struggle once school starts back up again. Keep an eye on your teenager or young adult'' mood, personality, and behavior. Some regression would be expected but as the school year progresses, they should adapt and adjust.
If your teenager or young adult continues to struggle while others seem so have adjusted, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a teen counselor or young adult therapist. The sooner you start to address emotional or behavioral challenges, the less time it usually takes to help them overcome these challenges.
Maybe your teenager or young adult improved over the summer, yet you noticed the anxiety or depression did not go away. Once the stressors of the school year start, this can cause things like anxiety and depression to worsen.
If you have observed your teen or young adult struggle with anxiety, depression, or other challenges over the summer, reach out and talk with one of our teen counselors or young adult therapists.
We can help provide a head-start to the school year in helping your teen or young adult learn how to manage these complicated emotions.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: 70 + Years of Combined Experience in Teen Therapy & Young Adult Therapy
It is important that when looking for a therapist for your teen or young adult, you find one that specializes in working with teens and young adults. There is a difference between therapy for adults and therapy for teenagers.
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have 70+ years of combined experience in providing teen therapy and young adult counseling. If you are concerned about your teen or young adult and the struggles they experience, our therapists are here to help.
To start teen counseling or young adult therapy, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling
To succeed in any relationship takes work. This is a common understanding that many of us have.
However, sometimes life will throw challenges at us that create situations that put strain on our marriage or relationship. It may be due to:
Choices and actions that have been made by one partner.
Financial downturn in the economy creating financial strain.
Feeling like you're growing apart.
Feeling like you don't have as much in common as you used to.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker - Supervisor (LCSW-S), Board Certified in Neurofeedback, EMDR trained, and a Certified Brain Health Professional through the Amen Clinics. He has provided therapy to teens, young adults, and families since 2003 and is the Owner & Lead Clinician at Katy Teen & Family Counseling.
He specializes in leading teams of high performing therapists who also specialize in teen therapy, counseling young adults, and family counseling.
Jason is also a leader in the field of teen, young adult, and family counseling providing coaching and technical assistance to teen Residential Treatment Centers across the country.
Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.
If you are ready to start teen counseling or young adult therapy call, text, or email us today!
Phone Number: 346-202-4662