It’s almost back to school time and that means adjusting to new schedules and routines, making new friends, fall sports starting and calendars filling up-well maybe. This school year will look much different than previous school years. While back to school time is exciting and fun for highly sensitive persons, or HSPs it can also be a very anxious time for them. Here are some of the most common worries I hear from HSPs when it comes to school starting again. If you’re new to the HSP world, remember that going back to school is a major transition!
Change is hard for almost everyone but HSP children/teens have to adjust to a new schedule every school year, which is much more often than adults. This tends to spike their worry about who will be in their class, expectations of the new school year and adjusting to a new routine. Additionally, students this year will have to be mindful of social distancing and wearing a mask much of the time. All new and difficult adjustments!
Likewise, friendships can be difficult at any age but especially for HSP children/ teens. Friendships can be especially difficult during the teen years- drama, not fitting in or finding the right group of friends. HSP children of all ages typically struggle with being deeply loyal in friendships and it not being reciprocated or wanting a deeper connection with others and not being able to find it.
Teens often tell me they worry about their teachers and whether or not they will like them or be liked. HSP children/teens especially report they worry about whether or not they are going to be able to meet the teacher’s expectations. HSPs are usually perfectionists when it comes to school work, and will often procrastinate because they are afraid they might fail. And if they wait until the last minute to do a project, paper or speech and get a bad grade-well, it was because they didn’t have enough time. It’s a vicious cycle!
Many HSP children/teens report having difficulty managing social media (depending on how old they are) and most of them find it overwhelming. Many HSP children/teens report they feel like they have to keep up with posting-making sure it’s fun and engaging enough to get lots of likes or comments. Even keeping up on SnapChat streaks can be stressful!
This is an ongoing stressor for many of us and people are all over the place with how they feel about COVID-19. And, like it or not, it has become part of our new reality. As the school year begins, most children/teens have expressed to me that they are ready to be back with their friends but it does come with some anxiety since they have not been around that many people for months. Keep in mind that there is no right answer for everyone and that’s okay. The truth is, we have been dealing with COVID-19 for a while now, and no one knows for sure how it will all play out. What I do know, is that you and your family need to work through this in a way that makes sense for your family and your situation. So, if that means your HSP child/teen starts school and then you all decide they should finish online, you have permission to do that (depending on your school’s requirements). This is a good time to remind your HSP child that we are all learning how to be flexible.
Here are some things you can do to help your child/teen manage the new school year:
I’m a big fan of not doing things for my children even when it’s hard for them. My kids get tired of me telling them, “I’ve already been through (insert their current grade) and I don’t need to go through it again.” I am however happy to help them when needed but they have to ask, and I won’t do it for them even if they have procrastinated. Their emergency does not suddenly become mine due to their lack of planning.
When HSP children/teens get stressed about school projects or homework, or feel overwhelmed, I remind them they have done harder things than this in the past and they can do this one too. I think this helps them calm down and remember that they will get it done and finish it on time. I also remind them that our brains operate on experience. So if in the past you got things done and they turned out well, chances are that will happen again.
I think it is very important to allow our children to rest and not procrastinate. This includes helping them figure out the difference. I think most kids need some down time each day. I call this being kind to yourself. This can be anything that makes you feel happy-change into your favorite pajamas, grab your favorite drink, watch your favorite show. In our house one of our family values is that we are kinder to the people inside of our house than outside of our house (we just try to be kind period) and this includes yourself!
I hope this helps you find the answer to questions you may have about HSPs and the transition back to school in Greenwood, IN. I’d love to help you be able to live at peace with yourself and others by reducing your anxiety and letting go of your perfectionism. Please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email lisa[at]peacefamilycounseling[dot]com. I offer groups and individual counseling. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling. If you are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, coaching for parents with HSP children, you can read more about how I can help at my website www.peacefamilycounseling.com