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Preparing Teens for Back to School

This article has been written by parenting author and blogger Becky Goddard-Hill.

Back to school or not back to school - it's not 100% certain but either way we have to prepare our kids. 

Back to school can be a shock to the system at the best of times, getting into a daily routine of school and homework and saying goodbye to those long, lazy weeks off. This year most young people will have been away from school for months! And getting them ready to go back is going to be that bit tougher. 

But don't despair. 

There is a lot we can do to help our teens prepare practically, physically, emotionally and mentally for their return to school. 

Making plans 

A back to school plan is often something we impose on younger kids, shoe fitting and uniform shopping, getting their pencil case ready, and telling them all about their new teacher and running through their typical day with them. 

Teens need just the same reassurances, but you won't have so much control or information. 

Try sitting down with your teen and creating a back to school plan together. Taking responsibility for some back to school tasks is a good things for them to take on as part of their growing independence. 

There is a lot of things to work out and prepare including: 

  • What still fits and what need to be bought? Can they go and try everything on and create a list of what they need? (Do this early as uniform being unavailable causes HUGE stress) 
  • How are they going to get to school? Have they arranged it, who are they walking with etc. prehaps they can make some calls to sort this out. Perhaps they need a photo for a bus pass? 
  • Do they have an alarm clock or do they want to be woken? Working this out will save tensions later
  • Are they planning to have dinners or packed lunches? Is a new lunch box needed? 
  • What about stationary, revision guides, a school bag? Do they have what they need?

Working through all your questions will help you assign tasks and responsibilities and make sure that everything gets ticked off the list. This will help avoid a huge amount of last-minute stress and by engaging in the process of preparations your teen will mentally shift their focus to school starting and being to readjust. 

Getting back into a sleep / wake routine 

In the teen years the body clock goes a bit awry and late nights and late mornings become the norm. However as back to school comes round a regular sleep/wake routine is important. Starting to ease back in to this a few weeks before school starts means it is not such a shock! 

The week before schools open, I sneakily start planning in things like haircuts at 9am or early morning grandparents' visits so my teens get back in the swing of getting up at a reasonable hour. 

Encourage teens to reconnect with their friends

Lots of teen will have stayed connected to their friends through this extended break and will be excited about seeing more of them as they go back to school. But for many teens we know recent times have taken a toll on their emotional health. Childline have reported a 40% increase in calls through the Coronavirus pandemic for anxious and worried young people many of whom reported feeling isolated. 

It is well worth encouraging your teen to make plans to meet up with friends for a bike ride or a kick about or just to hang out before school starts. If they are reluctant to make this first move try and ease them back into socialising by meeting up with another family for a picnic in the park and helping them break the ice. 

Clear work / desk space 

Teen bedrooms can get a little disordered at the best of times but every teen will need a space to study and somewhere to store their school notes and books. It may well be time for a clear out and a tidy up. Support them in decluttering by providing them with boxes and bags and perhaps even lending a hand. 

Setting up a workspace for their back to school return will also help them to begin the adjustment for the changes ahead. 

Time to talk 

Emotionally your teen may have many concerns and a whole lot of feelings about going back to school and these may be overwhelming. It is important to provide space for these to be aired and shared. Try and find 1:1 time to spend with your teen in the weeks leading up to school and ask them how they are feeling about it all. 

Take their worries seriously but offer calm reassurances that school with have plans in place to keep them as safe as possible. Go over the basics with them, hand washing/use of masks/social distancing etc. but don't add to their anxieties by piling on your own. Your confidence will be contagious in just the same way your insecurities would be. 

If you have worries yourself about how school will keep your teen safe do contact the school and ask what their plans are. It is often the unknown that causes the most fear and being well informed will better enable you to support your teen.

Back to school has always caused wobbles and this year more than ever. But, with good preparation, your teen will be ready to go for a brand-new term and the next phase of their school life.

Becky Goddard-Hill is also the co-author of Be Happy Be You: The teenage guide to boost happiness and resilience

For ages 12+ 

Be Happy Be You