Tips from a Licensed Counselor

By Bailey Katz, LCPC, ATR
August 24, 2023

The end of summer means back-to-school season is near. While this time of year can mark a fresh start and new opportunities for growth, it can also bring stress and anxiety for children of all ages.

Bailey Katz, LCPS, ATR, Josselyn’s adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program clinical supervisor and therapist, shares practical tips and strategies to help guide your child through this transitional period and help them approach the academic year with confidence.

The foundation to manage any type of stress is consistency. This allows for a plan to fall back on when things feel overwhelming. To identify core needs and build a schedule, it is helpful to use the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) concept called SEEDS.

  • Sleep
  • Eating
  • Exercise
  • Doctor’s recommendations
  • Self-care

Regularity in these areas will help anyone be able to tolerate unexpected stressors that may come up. The actions involved with SEEDS are often the first to go when someone becomes overwhelmed and can be a sign for you to check in with your child. 

Create an after-school plan to release emotions from the school day

  • Empower your child to decide on their own schedule based on what they need. Support them in identifying options for relaxing activities. Some adolescents may need a break after school, and some prefer to do homework right after school.
  • Work with your child to agree on the time for relaxation, chores, and homework.

Help break up overwhelming assignments into manageable chunks

  • Be realistic with capabilities and attention span.
  • Take breaks and celebrate what has been completed.
  • Try the Pomodoro Technique: focus for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. After four rounds (2 hours), take an extended 20-minute break.

Empower your child to talk with teachers about concerns with classwork or step in to help advocate if this is overwhelming for them.

Talk to your child about the changes you have noticed and ask open-ended questions.

  • Ex: “I noticed you have been having trouble sleeping lately, what has been on your mind?” or “It seems like homework has been frustrating this year, what assignments are you working on now?”
  • Refrain from starting questions with the word “why” since it can trigger defensiveness.
  • Adolescents may just want to vent and don’t need us to fix anything. Sitting with them to actively listen can be just as valuable, if not more, than fixing the obstacle for them. It is great practice to ask, “Is this something you just want to talk about, or something you want me to help with?”

If your child is not comfortable talking with you about what is going on, suggest making an appointment with the school social worker or counselor and remind your child they are not alone with these difficulties.

If you notice that your child is struggling to manage stress, don’t hesitate to reach out to your medical provider or a therapist for further assistance. Josselyn’s compassionate team is ready to help.

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