A back-to-school plan to support your teen

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Going back to school after summer break can be a very difficult time for teens. Even though they’ve done this many times before, each new school year can bring new anxiety and other challenges for your teen. As their parent, you play a key role in supporting them through the transition to ensure they have the best year possible. Here are some helpful tips to consider as you plan for back-to-school season:

Acknowledge it is a challenging time

Entering a new setting can bring anxiety due to the unknown. This is similar to starting a new job or career position. This unknown is challenging, so acknowledging the anxiety your teen might be facing can help them feel supported. You may be able to provide them with the answers they need.

Ask your teen how they are doing

Checking in on your teen is essential. It not only allows you an opportunity to understand how to support them but also allows your teen to process their feelings through conversation. They may not know they are anxious or overwhelmed until you ask how they are doing—finding time to speak during dinner, on the drive from school, or even while sitting around the house. Of course, your teen may not want to talk, but it is important to create a space where they know they don’t have to handle stress alone.

Support and encourage their interests

Find your teen some outlets of interest. Help them find clubs or other extracurriculars within the school system. Schools often have a list of clubs offered or advise them to contact a guidance counselor. If equipment for their hobby is needed, many people sell second-hand supplies through the Facebook marketplace or thrift shops. If their interest is more diverse and not offered within the school system, see if classes are offered at local community centers or online classes or groups. For example, many online courses are offered through MasterClass, Skillshare, or YouTube. Having a hobby/ interest outside of school allows your teen to break up the demands of schoolwork. Additionally brings communities that will enable them to feel like they belong, so by encouraging them, you remind them of your support.

Map out a daily & weekly routine

Routines are a great way to set your teen up for success during the school year. Researchers from the University of Georgia found that high school students who have a set daily routine had higher rates of college enrollment and were less likely to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in their young adult lives. Good routines consist of waking up at the same time every morning, consistent meal times, exercising, and going to bed at the same time each night. It is recommended that teens get at least one hour of physical activity per day. Your teenager also needs time to themselves, perhaps a snack after school to refuel and relax after a hard day at school. All these components will help set your teen up for success.

Prioritize bedtime and rest

Teens need at least eight hours of sleep each night to give them the energy and rest they need for the next day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends no screen time 30 minutes before bed. Try chatting with your teen about their day or suggest reading before bed. If you find your teen is lethargic and tired during the day even when they have had eight-plus hours of sleep, make sure they are getting healthy uninterrupted sleep and are eating nutritious foods. If that still doesn’t help, check in with their pediatrician.

Arrange a space in your home for schoolwork

Creating a space where your teen can sit down each night and work on homework is essential. Many times teens want to do their homework in their bed or on the couch; however, the brain is not as focused and awake when doing homework in a space that is meant for sleeping or relaxing. The best environment for homework is sitting at a desk or table where your brain is able to focus completely on the task at hand. Minimal distractions like TV, phone, and noise from siblings are important to help your teen complete their work to the best of their ability.

Many teens find a successful homework space simply consists of a desk and chair in their room or another quiet area in the house or apartment. Sometimes it takes a few tries to see which kind of study space works best for your teen, so don’t get discouraged if a desk and chair don’t seem right for your family. Sometimes it can be good to get out of the house and try working on homework at a local coffee shop or library.

A parent needs more than just luck for preparing their teen for back to school; being prepared with a plan is a win-win for both parties. Here’s to another great school year!

About the authors

Between Us is a grant-funded program from the Minnesota Department of Health that creates access to confidential reproductive healthcare for youth and young adults who receive their care at Hennepin Healthcare. Teens have the right to confidentiality for certain kinds of care under Minnesota’s Minor Consent Law. Between Us transforms primary care into a more teen-friendly environment, welcoming teens and their parents and providing confidential care when needed.

The following interns contributed to this article:

  • Madie Anderson-Sarno is currently a Master of Public Health, studying community health promotion with a minor in sexual and reproductive Health. She is interested in sexual and reproductive rights as well as making comprehensive sexual education available to all.
  • Sophie Gonzalez is a second-year Master of Environmental Health student at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. Sophie is interested in increasing access to sexual health and facilitating conversation with adolescents.
  • Zach Schmit is a Master of Public Health student at the University of Minnesota studying community health promotion and sexual health. He is also a graduate assistant in the School of Social Work. Zach is most passionate about health equity for LGBTQ+ people, particularly teens and adolescents!
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