Teen Mentors, the school year is coming to an end, and this can mean multiple issues for your kiddo. First, junior high and high school students have final exams or final papers/projects to complete. This can cause their anxiety level to skyrocket, depending upon the amount of work they are expected to do, in addition to the already existing stress of their everyday lives. This is a time to check in with your kids more often than usual, regarding not only their academic progress, but also their emotional state of mind and spirit.
Another reason teens might have a heightened level of anxiety is because (believe it or not) they are not looking forward to Summer Break. For some kids, school is the only safe place they know; it is the only place where they know they can depend on the adults; they know a certain schedule is to be kept. It might be the only place where they are able to get a nutritious meal. For some teens, school is a safe haven where they know they have you or some other adult who can provide a ‘safe shelter’ if things are not going well outside of school.
What does that mean right now? If students have a heightened level of anxiety, either because of end-of-year academic responsibilities or because they are dreading three long months without the daily support on which they have come to depend, they may start to act out in various ways. You may encounter your kiddo picking fights with peers or with adults, acting withdrawn, refusing to complete school work, showing signs of depression or regressing back to whatever behavior made them a candidate for needing a Teen Mentor.
This does NOT mean you have failed at your Teen Mentoring efforts. In fact, if you see ‘regression’ then that implies the ‘progression’ that you have made with your teen! These behaviors are common for this time of year. So what can you do to alleviate these behaviors? As mentioned before, you may need to check in with your kiddo a little more often than usual. Also, find some time outside of school hours (before or after school) where you can meet and help them with whatever might be stressing them out—be it academically or socially. If you are willing to continue meeting with your kiddo throughout the summer, set up a schedule that works for both of you to meet in a public place (My first suggestion is always the nearest library…), so that way, this child will know that he/she will have continued support throughout the summer. If your kid relies on free/reduced breakfast/lunch, try and find a local organization that helps provide food for families in need. Most people in the Kansas City area know about Harvesters, but many other organizations exist throughout the city.
In the end, most kids are counting down the days until Summer Break with excitement; however, be aware of kids in at-risk situations. They may be counting down the days until Summer Break with trepidation.