Originally published: September 2021

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A new school year can be full of change. It might mean new course schedules, different teachers and classmates, or tweaks to the daily routine. It can involve big shifts too, like making the leap from junior high to high school.

Back-to-school changes can be intimidating. Teens like to know what to expect, so it’s natural for them to be curious (and even worried) about what the school year will look like.

It’s important to be there for your teen during times of transition. Your support will help them feel confident, capable, and secure. Here’s what you can do to help:

Talk it through

Have open, honest conversations about going back to school. Talk about what they’re looking forward to— like meeting new friends, starting a new music, art, or technology option, or joining an after-school student group. Be supportive and optimistic—they’ll take their cues from you.

Try asking your teen about what worries them. Listen to their concerns without interruption. They might be wondering how they’ll get to school on time, find their locker or classroom, or where they’ll meet up with friends after school. Validate their concerns, then help brainstorm solutions.

Focus on what they know

Help your teen pay attention to the things within their control. People of all ages do well with predictability and routine, so planning ahead can prevent little worries from growing. For example:

  • Set consistent times to go to sleep and wake up in the morning—as much as possible, keep them the same on both weekdays and weekends
  • Figure out the route to school and practice it in advance— for some teens, this may involve their first experience with public transit
  • Help with priority-setting and planning to balance homework and after-school activities
  • Review school planners, supply lists, and information from your school website
  • Take part in welcome-back activities like school tours or orientation events
  • Keep doing activities you enjoy as a family and that help you stay well, like eating meals together, playing board games, or going for bike rides

Check in

As the school year gets underway, try not to overwhelm your teen with questions or conversation. Give them space and time to settle in. Offer little hints that you’re available when they need it—be warm, caring, and compassionate. Help them identify other trusted adults they can count on for support.

Transitions take time. It might be tough for your teen to jump back into routine or find a new groove. Try to be realistic and flexible. If you’re concerned that something is wrong, talk to your family healthcare provider or call 811 to speak with a Registered Nurse.

Take it further

If your teen is closing in on the end of their school years, more changes are on the horizon. Whether they’re considering post-secondary studies, launching into a career, or still deciding their path after high school, new hurdles are ahead—paying bills, dealing with roommates, managing time, and more. Be there to ease the transition out of high school and into adulthood. The resources below can help.

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