Authored by Kent Larsen, Therapist/Counseling Services
As we approach the starting of school many of our children and teens have mixed emotions as being in school adds a lot of stress that didn’t exist in the same way during the summer. Stresses come in many areas to children and teens. Some of the most frequent stresses are of…
1. Being able to get all their school work done on time and turned in when due.
2. Being able to work and go to school at the same time without getting behind.
3. Fear of being bullied.
4. Fear of being rejected by peers.(Are people going to like me?).
5. Fear of not being able to make it on the team (volleyball, soccer, football, basketball, softball, baseball, wrestling, etc.).
6. Balancing extracurricular activities and social life with the demands of school work.
What can be done about these stresses? Is it possible to make it through a year of school without being totally stressed out?
In facing the many stresses that going to school adds to a person’s life, there are ways of coping that increase one’s ability to function well and that reduce the amount of stress that a child faces.
One of the biggest keys to a student’s success is parent involvement in their lives, particularly their school lives. This involvement need not be overbearing, but it needs to be to a point where parents are accessible to their children and also can tell how their children are doing and if help is needed. Parents can often tell if their children are stressed out, upset about something, or not functioning well. It is appropriate for parents to ask questions of their children if something is suspected and to be willing to help. Parent assistance can be through helping children with given school subjects that the parent has knowledge of or connecting their kids with a family members or friend of the family who is able to offer assistance. It can also be done through tutoring provided through their school or after school programs that Salt Lake County Youth Services offers on some Granite District schools. The Boy’s and Girl’s clubs in Salt Lake County provide some homework assistance as well help can also be provided by the teacher of the specific subject before or after school, depending on the teacher.
For ADHD diagnosed children there are special challenges that can be addressed by parents, teachers, principals, and sometimes through pediatricians (who have the ADHD treatment specialty) or child and teen psychiatrists. See CHADD on-line for more information on helping kids and their parents cope with those unique challenges. Children not doing well in school is a risk factor for substance abuse and delinquency and violence.
While teens love having their own money, their ability to work with school in session needs to be evaluated on an ongoing bases. Many parents require that their teens have reasonable grades if they are allowed to have a part-time job while school is in session. Often more work hours can be done on the weekends so that more time is available on school nights to complete homework. Parents need to intervene if bosses require late hours or too many hours.
The same goes for extra-curricular activities and social activities as work hours: such as clubs, sports, being on the yearbook staff, participation school plays, etc. While it is wonderful for children and teens to be involved in all of the activities they can, school success needs to be among the highest of priorities. It is likely not possible for a child or teen to be involved in all they wish to be involved in. Parents can be involved in assisting teens to make some of these tough decisions.
Children’s very real fear of bullying is in the news quite often and is a very real possibility for most children and teens. They can be trained in defusing rude comments without counter-attaching and save face in most situations. Children should learn to stand up for themselves without fighting with of insulting the bully. Situations that come outside of the child’s or teen’s ability to control must be reported to appropriate school teachers, counselors, principals, and other school staff or playground duties. Children have the right to feel safe and secure at school. (Stay tuned for a future blog by me on the subject).
Fear of acceptance is also a fear that most teens and children face. It is much easier to be accepted (at a superficial level) by children who break the law, drink, smoke cigarettes and use marijuana or other drugs, disrupt class, and generally get in trouble. This can have a serious impact and a negative influence on children. They must be taught to be patient and careful to pick the right kids of friends and that they don’t have to please everyone. Not everyone has to like them because not everyone will like them. (Parent involvement and guidance on this issue is key to child and kid success).
While it is important for children to be involved in things they enjoy, not everyone can make it on the football team or as a cheer leader. Kids benefit from having back-plans which can include hobbies, involvement in clubs, student government, plays, drill team, yearbook club, etc. Everyone needs something they can do that gives them self-value and a sense of belonging. Video games, while fun to play, don’t necessarily count as a hobby or involvement for this category. If a teen or child has a couple of things going that makes them feel good about themselves they fare better through times of rejection. These must also be balanced with school assignment demands, as many of these activities can demand a lot of time.
Salt Lake County Youth Services provides short-term (two months) individual and family counseling to assist children 8-17 and their families in Salt Lake County and some adjoining counties to address these issues. Youth Services also provides longer term counseling for children 8-17 who have Medicaid or no medical insurance for mental health issues or who have longer term therapy needs. Youth Services also has substance abuse treatment programs for those who have Medicaid or no insurance.
Those who have significant depression, anxiety, and other mental health needs are usually benefitted by ongoing counseling and some are greatly helped by medication. Mental health issues can be a serious risk factor if not treated by professionals. One by one, each of these stresses can be dealt with in a way that is beneficial for each child or teen. Success in school is one of the main protective factors against violence, delinquency, and substance abuse. Reducing stresses or anxiety to reasonable levels is a crucial protective factor against violence, delinquency and substance abuse, and usually not impossible to do if parents, children and teens work together. Help make the school year the best experience for your children and family.
Join us at our open house scheduled for August 25th from 5:30-7:30p to learn about counseling or and other programs for children, youth and family that Salt Lake County Youth Services provides. Or call call 385-468-4500.