Remember the knot in your stomach the week before you began junior
high as you imagined losing your way to classes, a mass of new faces, lots of
different and probably scary teachers, and mountains of homework?
Those fears live in the hearts and minds of adolescents and teens.
While most adolescents make the adjustment to a different school in a matter of
weeks, others may feign illness, refuse to leave the house, or have nightmares
and unreasonable fears. You can help your child deal with this adjustment by
listening to his or her concerns and asking if you can help. For example, you
can create a map of classrooms before school starts to help relieve some
Children who are not able to successfully manage fears and are still
anxious after a couple of weeks may need professional help.
Other challenging situations may also arise as school progresses.
Some of these issues may include:
Bullying. Bullying is a common experience for
many adolescents. It often occurs on or near school property before or after
school. Bullying can lead to serious difficulties for your child and interfere
with social and emotional development as well as academic performance. If you
suspect bullying is a problem, talk about it with your child. Seek help from
your child's teacher, principal, or school counselor. Work with your child to
come up with strategies to deal with a bully, such as walking away or looking
the bully in the eye and saying, "Leave me alone."
- Time management
problems. The middle school or junior high years are academically demanding for
many adolescents. Some need help adjusting to more complex and varied subjects
and more homework than in past years. Help your children set short- and long-term goals and
prioritize tasks. Get a calendar or date book and show them how to list their
responsibilities, such as homework and after-school sports. Help them organize
and set aside time for each task. Keep track of how long the task takes, so you can find out whether your time allotments need to be adjusted.
- Poor grades.
Emphasize the importance of a good education. Stress that a good education
requires hard work but that the effort is well worth it. Set goals for grades
or school projects with your teen. Help your teen reach his or her goals, and
reward success. Encourage your teen to get good grades for himself or herself,
not to make you (the parent) happy.
- Performance anxiety. Some
adolescents get overanxious about every assignment, quiz, paper, and test. Some
may become paralyzed by the importance they place on each and every school
task. Praise your teen's efforts as long as he or she works hard, studies
often, and is doing his or her best. Don't always focus on specific grades. Do
not compare your child with others who may be doing better in school. Point
your adolescent in directions where he or she excels, and then notice and comment on your child's successes.
If your child continually complains about school, find out what the
problems are and work together to develop solutions. Your adolescent may be
having difficulty concentrating because of concerns about family, friends,
money problems, physical changes, or any number of worries.
Dealing With Today's Teen Issues
Depression in Children and Teens
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years