We continue our series on how to help kids (and parents) cope with stress. In middle school and high school, expectations rise.
Dr. Ellen Shrouf, psychologist at the University Health System Behavioral Health Clinic, has some suggestions to help everyone stay cool – even if the PSAT or ACT are looming around the corner.
Middle school: Too big for routines (no, really, they aren’t)
Middle schoolers think they do not need help and routines. They do. Help them by planning: walk the halls of the new school after hours to make this age comfortable getting everywhere on time AND with each class’ books and supplies.
Sleep schedules will start to shift: later to bed, later waking. Remember: middle schoolers still need sleep.
If you sense activities are overwhelming your child, discuss what to cut. Work together to end up with a reasonable schedule. Parents should model the ability to resist overscheduling.
Emphasis on friends can seem extreme. Adolescents have to determine the person they are– physically, emotionally, academically, socially, in terms of motivation and sexual orientation and how outgoing they are.
It is stressful. It’s a lot. And the jury is his or her social group, not the parents.
Be patient and supportive. Try to maintain connections – like through reading a book together or playing video games together – they are more likely to talk to you.
All grown up? High school and high stakes.
You’re not teaching them anymore; their routines should be set. Watch how much you are doing for your child. At this age, it should be very little.
Encourage teens to align activities with their long-term goals. Relieve the college application stress by obtaining applications for likely schools in sophomore year. Together, see what the preferred schools want. Help your teen plan how to meet expected grades, leadership roles, volunteer work, even internship-type activities.
If your child is planning to enter a trade or specialized training school, investigate the process with them. Help them get relevant experience.
Your own modeling of stress management is more important now than ever. Teens are developing lifelong habits: “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t work.
If you believe exercise is important--but you haven’t been exercising--see if you can find a way to exercise with your teen. You both will get the benefit AND some stress relief.
Watch for balance across social, emotional and academic areas over these four years. Intervene if necessary. Be sure to tell your teen specifically why you’re recommending a particular change. Even if things are out of balance, don’t just do things without discussion first. Teach how to manage stress, don’t add to it.
Need to talk with a physician about your child? Think it might be more than stress? Call to make an appointment at one of our primary care clinics.