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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Your Child and Anxiety: School Stress Starts Early

Student Stress Starts Early. The Problem: Premature Pressure by Parents, Peers
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Middle School

Middle-school children are passing through the doorway to adolescence. By all accounts it is a very difficult period. With so much changing, middle-school children may feel frustrated by their inability to handle situations they used to handle with ease.

"The transition to middle school is where the peer dynamics change entirely. Quite often it is a very abrupt change," Bryant says. "It can be pretty painful. In junior high, there must be a debriefing time. Our kids come home really stressed and we need to talk them down. It is a time to listen, to say, 'Yes, it is really rough and that is hard to deal with.' Give them that you hear their pain, and they are safe at home and don't have to come home to parents giving them grief."

If that sounds simple, don't be fooled. It's still important to set limits. The key is patience.

"With teens, it is like pulling teeth to get them to talk. They just want to talk to friends," DeBord notes. "Finding time to talk with teens may mean going to the mall with them. Or lying down on the pillow next to them at bedtime. Find times when they can open up. Figure out how to open those conversations."

Bryant says it's a myth that teens can't have good relationships with their parents. Both she and DeBord insist that it's crucial for adolescents to be able to talk with adults.

"What they will want to talk about will surprise you," DeBord says. "It is heavy stuff -- family problems, sexuality, world peace. It could be that what's weighing on their minds is much heavier than what we think they want to discuss."

Teens are desperate to maintain good relationships with their peers -- but they also don't want to goof up, Bryant says.

"Stay with it in a kind, supportive way," she advises. "Express confidence that they can still carry their load at home. There is no quick, easy solution. Parenting in adolescence is more time-consuming than in elementary school. They need us there with clear boundaries. They need our lives to be stable and, to them, even boring. It says to them, 'As you go have your adventures, we are stable here.'"

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