As the whole family makes the transition into back-to-school mode, there is a variety of stressors that plague both kids and parents alike—from difficult homework to a stricter bedtime.
With summer flying by and many school start dates approaching, kids will be back to class in a flash. While many kids find summer vacation too short, resisting going back to school schedules, homework, and rules, others don’t mind returning to a place where they hope to enjoy friendships and activities.
But unfortunately for today’s kids, there are many legitimate and significant worries about another school year starting:
- Bullying: Will they get bullied or see other kids get bullied, including cyberbullying via social media?
- Violence: Will they get hurt physically or sexually, or see others get hurt?
- Grade pressures: How are they going to learn all the stuff they’ll be expected to and get those A grades?
- Social pressures: Will they make friends, be popular, and be accepted?
- Sports pressures: Will they be good enough to make the team? How will they deal with humiliation if they don’t perform well enough?
- Sexual pressures: Will they be pressured to date, and will they look “hot” or “sexy”?
High-level stress is linked to mental illness in children, which increases the risk of self-harm, including suicide.
Fact: One out of five children in the US are diagnosed with a seriously debilitating mental health problems and many more suffer from undiagnosed depression and anxiety.
Suicide rates are still rising: It’s the second leading cause of death in 15- to 24-year-olds and the third in 10- to 14-year-olds. Shockingly, 18% of high school students report seriously considering killing themselves.
Learning to cope with stress well promotes a better mental health. Stress relievers for kids of all ages include support from parents and other adults, predictability of environment and expectations, and time and sleep management.
Get counseling for a child who may be chronically depressed, anxious, or withdrawn, or whose behavior interferes with relationships or school progress. But expressing a plan for suicide and having what’s needed to accomplish it is an emergent warning sign of needing immediate psychological evaluation at an inpatient facility—these kids, no matter how young, must not be left alone until evaluated, and access to all methods of self-harm must be removed.
Kids have a fundamental need to feel like they belong, in their families, schools, and in society. You can be the foundation for this sense of belonging by being their nonjudgmental rock of support, no matter their personalities or how they perform in school and in activities.
Limit the digital device
It is very important to limit the phone use when it comes to going back to school. Parent that are worrying about cyberbullying need to have a close eye on the digital use for their kid. Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health, followed closely by Snapchat, according to a new report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK.
Their study, surveyed almost 1,500 young people aged 14 to 24 on how certain social media platforms impact health and well-being issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image.
The average teen spends nine hours per day using electronic devices, much of which is social media which results in digitally distracted kids. “It has become more than just a part of life; it’s now a way of life.”
And this is where things get tricky. It’s not as though we can simply delete our teens’ social media accounts and wipe our hands of the matter. In a sense, we’ve traveled too far down the rabbit hole of the internet to just disconnect. So, what are we to do? How can we ensure that teens have a positive social media experience as possible, and that it does not interfere with their general well-being?
Time for an Education
Even if your teen is already hooked on social media, it’s not too late to sit him or her down and go over the risks — as well as the benefits — of social networking. Here you also have an opportunity to set some firm boundaries.
“I think it is important for teachers, parents, and counselors to educate teens about the risks of social media and expose them to the issue,” said Nityda Coleman, a clinical social worker and therapist at Teen Therapy Austin. “It’s important to go into detail around why social media can be harmful as well as helpful.”
Schedule IRL Activities
Teens tend to turn to social media when they don’t have anything else to do. One simple way to remedy this? Plan something for them to do that gets them out of the house. If you must, ask that they keep their smartphone at home or in the glove compartment for some solid time of total disconnection.
“Parents need to fill teens’ time with more productive, structured activities, from music lessons to sports, so that teens have less time to go on social media,” “Another strategy is to insist that their teen keeps a diary of how much time they spend on social media and how they felt afterwards,”. “This will allow the teen to see for themselves that it was a waste of time that only made him/her feel bad. Then have him make a list of all the other things he could have been doing instead.”
Check In and Empathize
If you are concerned about your teen experiencing anxiety or depression because of social media, perhaps the most important thing you can do is to keep tuned in to how they feel. Let them know that you’re not just there to enforce rules and limitations, but also to listen and to help them get through problems when they arise.
“Let your teen know that you might want to check in on her/him every now and again,”.
It is extremely important to listen to, empathize with, and validate your teen’s experiences and perception of the world both on and off social media. Rather than giving her/him advice or a solution, listen. The more you rush in with advice, the more you’ll push teens away and they’ll feel that you just don’t get them.
Arrange an outing
If your kid is stressed out by, say, the decline of an important friendship, encourage him/her to reach out to other kids. “You may have to be the parent who says, ‘Invite a few friends to the movies, and I’ll drive.”
Don’t overreact: Respond to your child’s social stress seriously but not personally. “That’s normal” is a helpful response. “That makes me so sad” is not. You don’t want your child to feel that your happiness rides on her social success.
Do a dry run
Freshmen worry a lot about logistics: How will they find their classes? Many schools hold summer orientations; if so, sign up. If not, see if you can arrange a visit for your child and a few of their friends. If they have their schedules, so much the better. You may also be able to go online and get a map of the school.
Head off the rumors
If your kid is worried about getting a “bad” teacher, listen attentively to their concerns, then remind him/her of other rumors they’ve heard in the past that turned out not to be true. You may also want to enlist the help of older siblings or discourage their scare tactics.
Keep an eye on bedtime
Teens really need their sleep, so get your child’s sleep cycle back on track before school begins.