Get Your Teen Magazine in your inbox! Sign Up
Logo
Get Print Edition

Academic Stress Management: Help Your Teenager Manage School Stress

It’s that time of year again, back to school, with its fair share of excitement and…stress. While parents may be focused on grades, your teen may be stressing about a host of other things that come with the new school year (friends, dating, starting high school or changing schools). Check out these tips on stress management for students, before back to school stress sets in…

Stress Management Tips For Students

1. Get a Head Start.

It is so important to start the conversation with your teen before the school year begins. This helps you understand what is on his/her mind, it also lets your teen know that you are there to support them now and throughout the school year.

2. Review What Works.

Now that you have started the conversation, help your teenager remember all the things that went well last year. Reminding your teen of past successes (whether those are in academic or social arenas) will help put him/her at ease and realize that those past successes can be applied to future challenges. Help your teen connect the dots, by identifying those skills— social skills or study skills—that have worked for him or her in the past. Talk together about how to continue to use them this year.

3. Back to Basics.

A common mistake parents make when discussing stress management with teens is taking a reactive (rather than proactive) approach. We don’t have to wait until we are in complete meltdown mode to use those stress management skills! Now is the perfect time to talk to your teen about known ways to manage stress. Consider it a “daily vitamin” for stress prevention: getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, managing after school and extracurricular time wisely, and scheduling downtime everyday to do something fun and relaxing.

4. Develop a Routine.

As we transition from summertime to the school year, developing a routine is essential. This is the time to be thinking about and learning from mistakes made last year. How can you improve this routine so that the day runs a bit smoother? Your teen’s input is crucial here. Not only does this communicate respect for his or her needs as you both refine a realistic daily routine, it also will teach your teen important time management and organizational skills.

5. Plan Ahead.

Talk with your teen about the stressors he or she is anticipating. Ask open-ended questions: “School is starting soon, what are you looking forward to this year? What are feeling worried or nervous about this year?” Remember, just because you may be focused on academic demands, doesn’t necessarily mean it is at the top of your son or daughter’s list.

During this conversation, you can help your teenager plan ahead for anticipated stressors, and gently increase awareness of some unanticipated stressors of the coming school year. Do this by (1) identifying triggers of stress, (2) thinking of ways to plan ahead to prevent this stress, (3) reviewing what did and did not work in the past, (4) and talking about ways to manage stress from the inevitable challenges the school year brings, like tests or large projects.

6. Check In.

Finally, remember to check in with your teen as the school year progresses. This should be an ongoing conversation, both to remind your teen that you are there for support and to revise the plan as needed!

Meredith Bonacci, PhD

Meredith Bonacci is a licensed psychologist practicing in New York City who specializes in adolescents and young adults. Get in touch with Dr. Bonacci at rennickeassociates.com.