Help! I’m Anxious About My Teen Returning to School!

By now you might have heard most schools won’t reopen for in-person classes this fall. Or, perhaps your school is still uncertain about the possibility, and haven’t announced their final decision.

Whatever the case may be, you know this: your anxiety is skyrocketing. You don’t know how to plan for the school year. You’re stressed out about another indefinite period of homeschooling.

You just want to know when this will all be over and when things will finally go back to normal.

This Is the New Normal

Elise Guthmann, LCSW, Clinical Program Director of Evolve Treatment Centers in Gilroy, California, emphasizes that as much as we want things to return to the way they were pre-COVID, we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that “…this is the new normal for now.”

A measure of acceptance, she says, is essential to feeling more at peace with the situation, no matter how much we don’t want it to be our new reality.

“Accept the fact that you might be facing another few months of your kids home with you. Don’t expect society to fully reopen for a while. When you lower your expectations, you’ll be happier overall.”

Of course, acceptance is easier said than done. It may take a while for you to fully wrap your head around the fact that the pandemic won’t be going away for a while. But once you do, you’ll become much calmer about the situation.

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C

Of course, acceptance is just the first step. After that, you can brainstorm various possibilities about what the fall will look like for you and your family. You may not have all your information yet – and that’s okay. You may not know if you’ll be going back to work, or if schools will be open, or if you’ll be able to find childcare. To deal with all these possible scenarios, you can start making Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and even Plan D.

Though nothing is set in stone just yet, coming up with multiple contingencies may help. And for many, writing them down on paper will help immensely – even if only some parts materialize.

At the very least, you’ll feel at ease knowing you’ve thought of some solutions in advance.

Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is important, and studies show it reduces anxiety.

First, mental health professionals emphasize the importance of getting enough sleep every night. Staying up until the wee hours of the morning is terrible for mental health. And it’s even worse if you stayed up till midnight reading distressing news about the pandemic or the uncertainty about the school year, which is the source of your anxiety in the first place.

Instead of doomscrolling your social media and news feeds, take the time to do things, just for you, that bring you happiness. Even if you do something small several times a week, you’ll notice the difference right away.

For example, this is the time to order that novel you’ve been waiting to read for ages. Read a chapter a day to give you something pleasurable to look forward to. Or take up gardening: buy some seeds from a local nursery (order online to minimize risk) and dedicate some time to managing your own little garden every week. Depending on local regulations, you might also be able to take a relaxing stroll or hike, visit the beach, or ride a bicycle outdoors.

In the midst of what might feel like a chaotic and uncertain time, these hobbies and activities can distract you from all the anxiety and stress, help you ground yourself, and create a welcome sense of order and stability.