My Teen Has Back-To-School Struggles

After almost a year of interrupted education, it’s no wonder some teens are finding it difficult to adjust to ‘normal’ school life. Here’s how you can help…

Whether your teen is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, finding it difficult to study, has fallen behind, or simply cannot face the school day, we’re here to help.

“I’m just gonna hit snooze one more time…”

Exhibit A: one sleepy, grumpy teen who is refusing to get up in the morning and rolls out of bed with just minutes to spare. Cue a stressful breakfast with a side helping of sass and an atmosphere you could cut with a knife before they slam their way out the front door. And breathe…

If this sounds like your teen, you’re probably not in the minority. A teen who has had a late or sleepless night can be a force to be reckoned with in the morning. They’re also more likely to have difficulty concentrating on their schoolwork throughout the day and can feel more anxious, irritated and down.

What to do:

Try to encourage your teenager to adopt healthy bedtime and rising hours. It can help to focus on the positive effects a good night’s sleep will have on their mood and energy levels. Suggest some simple ways to help them wind down at night – we’ve got lots of great ideas here.

Encourage your teen to organise their school uniform and bag the night before to reduce the stressful rush in the morning. You can offer to help them with this if they like or set a reminder on their phone to prompt them every night.

“I can’t be bothered with studying.”

Your teen is probably sick to death of learning at home. While we can understand their reluctance, we also know how important it is for our child to study at home to support the learning they do in class – especially as many of their grades will now be based on class assignments and not exams.

What to do:

Sit down with your teen and ask them what it is about studying at home they’re finding difficult. Your teen may be feeling overwhelmed so offering to sit down and work out a clear study timetable or to help them prioritise their workload can make a big difference.

They may simply feel unmotivated. Try to remind your teen of their goals and help them to look at all the positives they’ve achieved so far. Help your teen break up larger tasks and set mini goals – this can make studying feel much more achievable. Get your teen to read our Why Is Studying So Difficult? guide for more helpful tips.

“I’ve fallen behind so what’s the point?”

Many teens feel as if they’ve fallen behind due to the difficulties of the past year. This could be due to any number of factors, from lack of materials or motivation to stress and anxiety. Whatever the reason, help your teen to look at this as a fresh start. Let them know that you will be right by their side and will help them in any way you can. Your support can go a long way.

What to do:

Talk to your teen and their teachers, if necessary, to work out a manageable catch-up plan to set them back on the right path. It can also help to remind your teen of their goals, such as the college course they want to eventually apply for or the entry requirements for a trade they’re interested in.

Try to support your teen with their catch-up by offering small rewards for the targets they meet and keeping them on-track with set study times and a quiet place to work. Your teen can read more about dealing with falling behind here.

“I just can’t face it…”

Your teen might be dreading school for all kinds of reasons. One might be social anxiety which has been heightened after spending much of the past year locked up and isolated. Your teen might be afraid of catching COVID-19. They may have become accustomed to their home-learning routine and have anxiety about going back to a timetabled day.

 What to do:

Firstly, you need to know exactly what it is your teen is feeling anxious about. Talk to them and listen to their fears and concerns. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can offer support and suggestions on how to reduce their worries.

If your teen’s worry is:

  • Social anxiety – Talk through the scenarios that are giving your teen the most anxiety and try to figure out ‘safe-space escapes’ for each. For example: a busy lunch hall. Suggest your teen eats outdoors with a friend or takes a walk around the school grounds instead. It can also help to download an anxiety app on your teen’s phone to give them breathing exercises and mindfulness tips at the touch of their finger.
  • Catching COVID-19 – Discuss all the safety measures your teen’s school has put in place to reassure them that everything possible is being done to keep them safe while they learn. It can also help to equip your teen with their own care pack of masks, sanitiser and wipes to help them feel as prepared as possible. Ask your teen to read I’m Scared Of Catching Covid for more helpful tips.
  • Adjusting to routine – Encourage your teen to get a good night’s sleep on school nights and to prepare their school things the night before to reduce anxiety. Being prepared and organised will make your teen feel more able to handle the day ahead.

You can also reassure your teen that although it may feel strange at first, they will soon settle into the routine of school. Remind them of how they felt in their first week at high school and point out how quickly and smoothly they adjusted to new surroundings and timetables. Better still, highlight just how amazingly they’ve coped with a global pandemic! Your teen is a superhero, and sometimes they need a gentle reminder of that before they’re ready to face the world.


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