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7 Ways to Empower Your Child to Embrace Change

August 29, 2023

Taren ColeyDirector of Child & Adolescent Services 

Article previously written for QCity Metro

The Impact of Change on Teens and Adolescents

Change can be difficult, regardless of age, and often accompanied by fear of the unknown and a sense of loss of control. However, developmentally, change may be harder for kids to process.

As their brain continues to develop, specifically the logical thinking part of the brain, children can experience increased anxiety when dealing with transitions such as returning to school from summer vacation or even short breaks. 

As a board-certified child & adolescent psychiatrist and a mother, I have witnessed this firsthand with both my clients and my own children, often seeing a rise in people seeking mental health services in August before the new school year begins. 

A Universal Feeling - Anxiety With Change 

Most children, from elementary school to college-aged, will experience some anxiety related to going back to school. This is very normal. 

However, normal worry and anxiety can be exacerbated for children dealing with mental health diagnoses like an anxiety disorder, depression, autism, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Although anxiety is a universal feeling, the way anxiety manifests typically changes based on age. 

For younger kids, you may observe more tantrums, acting out, crying and whining, and older kids may experience consuming thoughts or anxious spiraling. 

Teens Battling Back to School Anxiety 

As caregivers, there are several ways we can support and prepare our children for these transitions. Below are some suggestions I have recommended to the clients and families I work with and have tried on my own family. 

  1. Get back into a routine. During summer, it is normal (and good) to change up the routine. That usually means later bedtimes and sleeping in. To prepare for the start of school, get back to a normal sleep schedule and more structured mealtimes. 
  2. Manage expectations. Create a calendar that shows what activities your family has coming up and how many more days until the first day of school. This is a good visual reminder to help decrease fear of the unknown. 
  3. Create open lines of communication. Set aside intentional time to check in with your child, such as at the dinner table or before bedtime. Ask open-ended questions and encourage conversation. 
  4. Encourage journaling. Depending on your child's age, writing can be an effective way to express emotions and feelings. 
  5. Mange your own worries as a caregiver. Going back to school may mean increased stress for you as well. Be cognizant of how you manage your own stress. This can serve as a good example for your child. 
  6. Communicate with the school. It is important to share any observations or concerns you have about your child with their school. Collaboration is key to best supporting your child. 
  7. Reach out to a professional. If you are concerned about your child's behavior and/or mental health, contact their pediatrician or a mental health professional. 

We all know change is inevitable. Helping kids learn how to manage and navigate early in life will only continue to benefit them as they get older. 

Interested in learning more about building resilient youth? Click here for more information about HopeWay's upcoming George C. Covington Education Event, "The Sooner, The Better: Addressing Today's Adolescent Mental Health Crisis," on Wednesday, September 13th. 


Coming Soon - Adolescent Mental Health & Eating Disorder Programs


Editor’s note: This blog post is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. If you have any health concern, see a licensed healthcare professional in person.