My son starts middle school this week and is so anxious about the school year. He worries it will be too hard, that none of his friends will be in his class and not having anyone to eat lunch with. He has always been a little anxious and I’m scared he will let his year be controlled by worrying about little things; how can we help him stop worrying?
Bundle of Nerves
Dear Bundle of Nerves,
I want to first give you praise for having good communication with your son and being able to hear and talk about tough feelings. This is an important part of any close relationship and one that will serve you well throughout his adolescence.
The things that worry him may seem small to you, but they are big to him. Be cognizant of how you speak with him about his worries to not minimize his feelings. Keep supporting him by being there for him when he wants to talk and give him tools to manage his anxiety.
Anxiety around starting a new school year is common. We all worry a little when starting something new if we don’t know what will happen. Try to address each of his concerns and suggest ways he might handle it to increase his chance of success. This can include helping him come up with a few strategies to make new friends, inviting someone to sit with him at lunch and organizational strategies to stay on top of the academics.
You mentioned your son has always been on the anxious side. There are many positive coping skills for anxiety including meditation, journaling, or grounding techniques. There are also several apps that can assist with these methods. If you feel his anxiety is interfering with his functioning or consuming a lot of energy, mention it to the pediatrician to rule out any medical causes and then you might want to consider short-term therapy. A therapist can help identify the sources of anxiety, teach him positive coping skills and provide support.
Adolescence can be a difficult phase of parenting. Keep loving and supporting your son and create a healthy support system for both of you. And the most important piece of advice I can give you is to keep talking. Good communication is the key to close relationships.