Back to school is an exciting time for high school students— but it can also produce school anxiety for many young people.

The season reunites teens with best friends and favorite teachers, as well as means a return to highly anticipated dances and fun-filled sporting events.

Of course, there is also plenty of frenzied studying, late nights writing endless essays, and double shot Starbucks espressos. If your student is high school senior applying to college, add college applications and scholarship to the mix.

The combination can lead to anxiety… lots of it.

“Given the array of changes and uncertainties facing a normal teenager, anxiety often hums along like background noise. For some teenagers, anxiety becomes a chronic, highpitched state, interfering with their ability to attend school and to perform up to their academic potential. Participating in extracurricular activities, making and keeping friends, and maintaining a supportive, flexible relationship within the family become difficult. Sometimes anxiety is limited to generalized, free-floating feelings of uneasiness. At other times, it develops into panic attacks and phobias,” says the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Is your teen suffering from anxiety?

For parents, the difference between general “senior stress” and acute anxiety may be difficult to determine. However, symptoms may include:

  • excessive fears and worries,
  • feelings of inner restlessness, and
  • a tendency to be excessively wary and vigilant.

Even in the absence of an actual threat, some teenagers feel nervousness, restlessness, or feelings of anxiousness.

Stress affects more than just your teen’s mood

Stress produces a physiological reaction in the body. Specifically, hormones are released which can slow down digestion, induce shaking, tunnel vision, accelerated breathing and heart rate. This is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight response.”

The fight or flight response, explains Dr. Tian Dayton in the Huffington Post, “was designed to be used in times of danger, not throughout the day. But the body can’t tell the difference between real and fabricated fears, between the stress of a bad phone call, a traffic jam and an elephant charging — it will react to all with the same highly-geared stress response evolved by early man. Our stress response is inextricably tied up with our survival system, which is triggered into action through fear.”

While fear of a poor Calculus grade and fear of being eaten by a tiger are not the same, the body simply can’t tell the difference.

How parents can help teens deal with stress and anxiety

  1. Stop overscheduling. Kids are expected to pay attention in school for seven hours, excel at extracurricular activities and sports, come home, finish homework, and go to bed, then do it all again the next day with no downtime.
  2. Play! Younger kids will do this naturally, but older kids may forget how to simply play. Some ideas include: riding your bikes, throwing around the baseball, wrestling and hiking.
  3. Catch up on the ZZZs. Sleep is vital for everyone, regardless of age. Proper rest helps minimize stress, boost moods, and even improve school performance. Creating a restful bedroom environment (no electronics!) is crucial.
  4. Manage parental stress. Stress really is contagious!
  5. Start the morning off right. Disorganization is a major contributor to stress levels for everyone in the house. Prepare the night before for the next day. Lay out clothes and shoes, pack backpacks, prepare lunch and pop in the fridge, sign all papers, notes, and permission slips, and make sure there is a healthy breakfast available.

Augustine Hills School: Where every student can succeed

At Augustine Hills School in Wilmington, Delaware, success is a learned behavior. The 1:1 teacher to student ratio means that your child can listen without distraction.  They can speak and ask questions without fear. They can try and fail. Then, they can try again.

This revolutionary style of learning emphasizes academic success, mentoring relationships, and social remediation, if necessary.  The personalized curriculum, combined with a nurturing and supportive environment, inspire a true love for learning.

Contact us to schedule a no-obligation school tour. Augustine Hills School is open M-F, 8:30-5:00 for tours and informational meetings.