Every year brings new challenges for kids and teens. A kid who was successful last year might struggle in the coming months. Summers seem short, but a lot can change over three months. Kids grow, hormones kick in, and social dynamics change. As a parent, all you can do is prepare your child to go back to school and hope for the best.
There are a few common problems that you might notice in the first few weeks or months of the school year. Check out these problems that many students face that could cause behavioral problems or academic issues with your child. Let us be your resource to survive elementary, middle, or even high school.
Not much has changed since you were in school. The popular kids dominate the hallways and bullies run rampant. Even if your child has never been bullied before, they might become the victim of bullying if one of their peers views them as a target. On average, 20% of students report being bullied, but 70% of students report seeing bullying at their school.
If you notice any changes in behavior, your child may be dealing with a school bully. However, it is also your job as a parent to keep students from becoming a bully or tolerating bullying behavior. If you teach your child to stand up to bullies in their school, especially if they are the bystander rather than the direct victim, then they can create a better learning environment for everyone.
Today’s bullying doesn’t just exist on the playground. The vast majority of bullies have gone digital, making internet safety and cyberbullying a key issue for kids and teens. More kids than ever are on social media and they spend most of their time online. Almost half of all young people have received intimidating or nasty messages online or on their phones. Kids don’t just have to worry about their peers cyberbullying them, they also have to be on the lookout for strangers and predators.
Dealing with cyberbullies is something few parents are prepared for – especially parents who did not have this issue in their youth. Use the resources provided by Internet Safety 101 to guide your actions. They created guides for specific age groups so parents know how to protect their kids and understand the problems they face online.
Changes in Social Groups
Not all social issues in the classroom come in the form of bullying. Kids can be mean. Your child may have a friend one year and then not speak to them next year. They could be left out of a clique. One of the biggest sources of stress for kids going back to school is wondering who they will have classes with and whether or not they will have friends on the playground, at lunch, and after school.
The sooner you get involved in your child’s social group, the more in-tune you will be to changes. Make note of who your child no longer hangs out with and who your child considers their closest friend. Sudden changes in behavior could correlate to a new friend group – or a friend group that rejected your child at the start of the new school year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that girls tend to start dating when they turn 12 and boys start dating a year after. However, it isn’t uncommon for younger kids to report having a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” earlier than that. While these kids aren’t actually dating in the traditional manner, they may sit together when possible and use their relationship as a status symbol.
If your child has started to bring up dating, whether they are referencing their own relationships or those of their friends, try to understand what having a boyfriend or girlfriend means to them. Try to open up this discussion sooner rather than later. If you can talk to your child before they reach the secretive teen years, you might be able to pass on advice and important lessons for when they start dating for real.
A new school year brings new academic opportunities and challenges. It is important for parents to push their kids to do their best and work hard without overwhelming them. It’s not uncommon for students to feel stressed and overworked in school. Too much homework and pressure to get good grades and test scores can leave kids feeling drained.
Keep an eye on your child’s stress levels. While stress can be healthy, your child could face physical and mental exhaustion from too many activities or advanced classes. It is okay to take a step back to have a more balanced workload to protect your child’s mental health.
Different Classroom Expectations
A new year brings new teachers, new behavioral expectations, and even new school processes. Many students have a hard time adjusting to middle school, where they need to change rooms for every class, or adjusting to new teachers.
You can help ease this transition as a parent. Visit the school if possible with your child and help them walk to class and learn their routes. You can also meet with their teachers if possible to learn what the classes will be like. You can’t protect your child from everything, but you can give them the best odds possible to succeed.
Interestingly, inappropriate behavior may be a symptom rather than a problem on its own. If your previously well-behaved child or teen has suddenly started acting out, changing their behavior, or showing a sudden lack of interest in school, there could be other factors at play. A toxic significant other could be causing this behavior, or problems related to a certain class or friend group.
Try to focus on the root of the problem rather than just trying to stop the inappropriate behavior. You will have a lot more success if you can figure out why your child is having behavior issues rather than simply trying to stop the surface problems.
Going back to school is stressful for even the most well-adjusted students, but the stress of class, social expectations, and teen hormones can weigh particularly hard on your child. The CDC reports that 7.1% of kids aged 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety and 3.2% have diagnosed depression.
Anxiety and depression can compound on each other and cause other problems. Almost half of kids with anxiety or depression have other behavioral problems. This is because the symptoms and issues are rarely acknowledged in kids, so they act out because of their anxiety and lack of support.
One of the best things you can do if your child suffers from anxiety or depression is to get professional help from a counselor. Too often, parents try to help their children with their mental health issues and can inadvertently make them worse.
Work with a Professional Counselor at Family Resources
Whether your child’s grades are dropping because of stress or they are skipping school with their friends, counseling can help. At Family Resources, we offer free or affordable counseling to kids ages 6-17. Our trusted professionals create safe spaces for kids and teens to open up and express their emotions so they can face their issues head-on.
Contact us today to set up a counseling session, or simply to learn more about our programs.