For parents, back-to-school time is something of a relief, but for kids it’s often the return of stress and anxiety that was held at bay during the fun of summer. It’s normal for teens to experience a certain level of stress when returning to school‑adolescence is in and of itself a stressful time‑but as the pressure from parents, peers and themselves builds it can sometimes become unhealthy.
The key here is to understand the difference between normal stress and when it becomes an issue of concern.
According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/school-stress-healthy-stress-vs-red-flag-stress), while stress can be helpful and push a teen to perform better, it is “critical, though, that teens undergoing stress have the ability to function well at school and home.”
Red flags to look for, according to drugfree.org, are:
- Changes in eating habits
- Difficulty falling sleep or staying asleep
- Significant mood changes, including depression, anxiety, panic or anger.
- Demonstrating violent behaviors
- Using alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs to deal with stress.
Parents can help their teens manage stress. The key is being available to provide support when needed. When stress becomes too much for your teen to manage, seek mental health counseling or other support services.
Kym Laube is the program director of SAFE in Sag Harbor, a community-based organization dedicated to creating a substance-abuse-free environment in Sag Harbor, safeinsagharbor.org