Secondary school is a huge jump for children.   The pressures on them from all angles, not just in the classroom, but at home, in clubs and with friends are different now and at first can seem enormous.   As a parent, how do you spot the signs that something’s wrong and that the stress they’re experiencing may be affecting them negatively?

Communication

As your child grows up, the walk home from school holding hands and talking about all the exciting things they’ve done and who said what to whom in the playground, disappears when they go to secondary school.   There’s no daily playground check when you’d find out if your child had had a good or bad day.  Now your child is on a bus or at a club or you’re picking them up down the road.  So how do you get that sharing time back?

One of the easiest ways is to always insist you eat dinner together at the table.   It’s simple habit that will help to create a feeling of community and gives you that touch point with your child.

Yes they may come in and sit on their phone or start their homework or go out with their friends, but that family dinner-time is your chance to talk to them openly about their day.

Watch for changes in behaviour

There can be signs that there may be a problem:

  • Your child has always been confident, but suddenly seems shy
  • They may be spending a lot of time in their room
  • They may seem to be obsessed with checking their social media
  • They might change their eating habits
  • They may become uncommunicative and uncooperative.

This doesn’t mean there’s a problem, necessarily, but none of these should be ignored or put down to ‘teenage hormones’.

Teenagers can revert back to babies and find it difficult to tell you what’s wrong.

Tackling things head on and demanding an explanation of their behaviour is often not the best way.   However you can drop things into conversation gently.

Speak to their school and ask if they’ve noticed any changes at school.

  • Is there a problem with a certain pupil?
  • Are their grades slipping?
  • Are they eating at lunch?

Gather as much information as you can and then go to your child informed.

Talk to your child about your feelings

Most teenagers think their parents come from Planet Old.   Clearly, we were never teenagers ourselves, have no idea about anything and it most certainly was not the same in their day!

But, by having adult conversations with them about situations you’re currently encountering at work or in life in general, asking them for their thoughts makes them feel like their part of your life.   It tells them that their opinion is valuable to you and that you’re also not perfect.

Sometimes seeing that their parents’ lives aren’t perfect can give them the confidence to confess to their worries and ask for your help in solving their problems in return.

Sometimes the problem is just teenage hormones, but it’s wise to be aware in case your child is trying to deal with stress without the support they need.

While communication may be difficult with teens, do try to let them know that they can talk to you about any problems.

If you feel that they are struggling and they don’t want to talk to you, they may be willing to talk to someone else.   That may be the parent of a friend (an objective observer is often easier to talk to), a teacher or a professional counsellor.

As long as your teen knows that you care and will do your best to help, you’ll be on the way to helping them to cope with stress.