If you are a parent of a teenager, you may have asked yourself this question a time or two. You probably think back to your high school days and wonder what is there to be anxious about? Take a deep breath and know that your teen isn’t the only one that has back to school anxiety. Teens have a lot more social and academic pressure than generations in the past. Things your teen may be thinking about in the weeks leading up to school are much deeper than not wanting to get up early or having homework again. Many teens find high school to be complicated part of life. Teens often have fun and enjoy seeing their friends, but it’s also full of rejection, confusing feelings, and self doubt. So why do teens have back to school anxiety? It could be a number of things, but here are a few topics that might cross their mind.
Am I smart enough?
Academic pressures are on a completely different level compared to when I was in High School. They may receive this pressure from their parents and teachers, but in my experience, many teens put this pressure on themselves. Many teens believe they must compete academically at a much higher standard than the majority of their classmates, sometimes even better than students that are older than them. This belief is sometimes warranted because many colleges and universities admission requirements are much more strenuous compared to previous years.
Some things that colleges take into consideration and teens are concerned about include GPA, difficulty of curriculum, SAT/ACT scores, and even extra-curricular activities or volunteer service. With many universities receiving thousands of applications each year with nearly perfect grades, the competition level is tough.
Where do I fit in?
One of the more difficult aspects of Middle School or High School is finding where you fit it. This may be easy for some teens that are interested in theater or sports, but what about the teens that don’t fit into one very specific group? Part of you might want to tell your teen not to worry about it, but that will be easier said than done. You may have heard that a teenager’s most important relationships are their peer relationships; So finding ways to encourage your teen to follow their interest in order to find like minded peers that will accept your teen for who they are.
How do I look?
This isn’t always the most important thing to teens, but there are schools and peer groups that put more pressure on this topic than any other. A lot of the pressure comes from social norms. These days with Snap Chat and Instagram, a teen can get caught up into social media frenzy if they aren’t dressed to the nines. This isn’t always the experience of every teen. I’ve met many teens that are confidant in their style and dress the way they want no matter what their peers say. However, there are teens that value their peers’ opinions so much that their own self worth and self esteem is dependent on that acceptance. This also connects back to the previous topic of fitting in.
Your teens are going to be anxious about a hundred different things before school starts. You might hear about some of these things and you might not. Teens are notorious for keeping things from their parents, right? But if you think your teen is anxious, try asking curiosity questions or telling them about a time when you were anxious before starting a new job or school. These types of questions might inspire your teen to open up and they might not, but taking the chance and trying to connect is the most important thing.