Adjusting to the Stress of Entering Middle or High School

Adjusting to the Stress of Entering Middle or High School

With the new school year coming up, this means that a new group of students are making their way into middle or high school to start this new chapter. Any major transition such as this can easily trigger feelings of stress and anxiety, especially when it’s your child who is still growing, developing, and still trying to make sense of the world. Going into middle school or high school might have your child feeling uncertain about what to expect, worried about adapting quickly, stressed about the impending homework and studying, or concerned that they will not have any familiar faces around. This is all completely normal and understandable, but they do not have to feel this way. It is a good idea to go into this school year as prepared as possible both as the student and the parent, because this can be a tricky time for all. Below are some tips that can help you and your child adjust to the changes that may take place when beginning this new school year as a middle or high schooler. With a good balance of planning and talking it through, this shift can be a simple and easygoing one.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

A huge concern that often arises when starting at a new school is the prospect of getting lost, not knowing anyone in class, meeting new teachers and fellow classmates, or facing confusion surrounding one’s schedule. Let your child know that it is fully okay to ask for help or guidance from either yourself, a staff member at school, or a fellow student. Remind them that they are not the only incoming sixth grader or freshman at the school, and that a lot of other students are in the same exact boat as them. There’s a good chance they’ll even see a lot of familiar faces if their previous school was in the same district or a neighboring one, as well. Not feeling so alone can be very helpful in easing stress regarding these circumstances. Going into a new school with a layout that is unfamiliar can be daunting, but there will definitely be teachers and other faculty around that are specifically there to offer help if it is needed. There is nothing at all wrong with reaching out, and your child will steadily become more confident and less apprehensive with getting around and understanding their new school’s systems.

Be Prepared and Organized

To ease school-related nerves and jitters, one of the best things you and your child can do is be as proactive as possible and get super prepared and organized. This means it is a great idea for your child to become quite familiar with their school schedule before the school year actually begins, as well as prepare in every other way that is feasible. If you are able to go to the school to take a quick tour before the first day, this can definitely help ease your child’s mind and boost their confidence since they will have a better idea of what to expect. Having all of their school supplies ready and a game plan of how to tackle the new workload they are going to be faced with is also wise, since starting in middle or high school typically brings about a big change in the level and amount of coursework that’s given.

Offer a Listening Ear

This transitional time may be confusing and overwhelming for your kid, so it’s vital that they know they have a trusted individual they can confide in and express any of their apprehensions to. A slew of different concerns might be on their mind, which is only natural. Maybe if they have an older sibling that has recently been in their shoes, they can extend some insight to them, as well. They might need some reassurance provided or even just an outlet, so they don’t feel like they have to bottle everything up all the time. Their school also likely has a guidance counselor available to them that they should know they can reach out to if it ever becomes necessary. Even if they don’t really feel like talking it out right now, just knowing that the invitation is there is always a beneficial thing to have.

Practice Calming Exercises

No one is ever too young to start engaging in different practices that are helpful in promoting relaxation and a steady sense of calm. Looking up some different soothing breathing exercises or finding an audio-guided meditation can help more than you might think in managing anxiety levels. Mindfulness is the perfect tool for bringing oneself back into the present moment and away from the anxious thoughts that might be plaguing the mind, and deep breathing exercises are understood to lower the heartrate and calm the mind when stressed. Practicing these techniques in the days or weeks leading up to the start of school will ensure they’re going in with a relaxed mindset, and they should be encouraged to utilize them if anxious feelings start to creep in when they are there. Encourage them to give it a shot, and as the parent you can join in and practice with them, so they are more likely to give it a chance.

One of the trickiest things with anxiety is remembering that it is just troubled thoughts about what could happen or what might go wrong, and this mindset can be near impossible to break out of without the proper tools and assistance. The anticipation of beginning at a new school is something pretty much everyone goes through at one point or another, so as their parent try to imagine what that was like and put yourself in their position as much as you can. Acknowledging the feelings of our youth is so important and will only supply positive outcomes and a greater foundation of support for them.

Getting Help

Dr. Messina & Associates has a caring and compassionate team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists that specialize in anxiety and depression in children, adolescents, and adults. In-person appointments are available in our DFW (Southlake) offices. Online appointments are available to patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston, and San Antonion areas. 

Dr. Michael Messina

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