We all know what it’s like to be put in a different position than the one you’re used to. A position where you have to use and grow muscles you aren’t used to using. It can be uncomfortable and leave you floundering for a little while as you try to figure things out. This feeling is very real in our children that are stepping into high school for the first time. There are a lot of new muscles and skills to grow, and, with the start of a new schedule, it can be overwhelming. How can we help support our children in this time?
Growing the School Muscle
Moving from middle school to high school means your child is going to regularly be getting more homework. As they step into this new stage of life, they’ll be getting other responsibilities, too. This includes any jobs they may be adding to their daily schedules, and any new, adult chores around the home.
All of these new or increased responsibilities make balancing time harder. For some ways to help your high schooler balance and manage their time, as well as making it work with the family’s schedule, check out our article on having a good work/life balance.
A few easy ones include working with a planner or calendar. Get together as a family to make sure no one is over committing, and that there is enough time and methods of transportation to get to each of the commitments.
These increased and additional demands on their time will also add increased stresses. Sitting for long periods of time, and any tumbles they may take throughout the day will add physical stresses. Increased homework, deadlines, and juggling schedules will add mental stresses. Chemical stresses will be increased due to things like puberty, allergens, hormonal imbalances, or contact with toxins.
The body is affected by all these stresses, and doesn’t differentiate in the way it reacts to each. A looming deadline is a different kind of stress than being chased by a bear, but the body reacts to both the same way.
Growing the Sleep Muscle
Sleeping well is the best thing you can do for your body. As Doc says in this video about sleep:
If you get this right, it can dramatically change your life, even if you do nothing else at all.
This is not, however, something that most people are doing right, and NBC news reports that:
Desperate for rest in a frenzied world, at least 8.6 million Americans take prescription sleeping pills to catch some Zzzs, according to the first federal health study to focus on actual use. Between 2005 and 2010, about 4 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and older popped popular prescription drugs such as Lunesta and Ambien in the previous month, say government researchers who tracked 17,000 people.
In order to get enough sleep, your high schooler has to figure out how to balance homework, jobs, relationships, and optimize their time to get to sleep at the right time, and get enough sleep to be able to stay awake and focus, in the morning.
For some more advice on sleep, check out The Wellness Way’s eight tips on how to get a night of better sleep.
Did you know that your sleep schedule is dependent on your hormones, too? It’s true. Hormones like cortisol, insulin, and melatonin all impact your sleep. If your high schooler is having chronic issues falling asleep, it may be time to get their hormones tested.
How to Optimize Your High Schooler’s Diet
No high schooler really enjoys eating well. Most people in general don’t, although we all prefer the end result of eating well to the end result of not eating well. This is because what you put into your body determines the caliber of work and effort it can put back out. How hard and long can you focus? How tired are you, regularly? How fast and hard can you exercise? It all depends on the fuel you give your body.
We are all familiar with the term ‘allergy’. Normally, it brings to mind swelling and itching and, in extreme cases, epi pens. This isn’t the only way allergies show up, however. As mentioned above, allergies cause chemical stress. This is because they trigger the immune system’s reaction. If you’re regularly taking in something that triggers the immune system, it is going to fatigue the immune system. When the immune system is fatigued, it doesn’t pay as close of attention to what it is fighting against, and can sometimes cut corners and end up attacking the body’s own tissues. This is where autoimmune disorders come from.
Because the body works like a Swiss watch, with every gear and process impacting the others, an overworked immune system is going to need more energy–energy it isn’t getting from the allergens that are triggering it. When this happens, it borrows energy from other organs and processes. This is why things like irritability, fatigue, and lack of focus can be a sign of an allergic reaction.
Just like allergens, toxins will trigger the immune system, and can ultimately fatigue it past the point of functioning properly. Toxins can be found hiding in everyday items like cleaning supplies, beauty products, hair products, lotions, and hidden sources of plastic. They can also be found in foods like the dirty dozen, sugar, sports drinks, dyes, and GMOs.
Because toxins trigger the immune system the same way allergens do, the symptoms can be the same. Are there any toxins your family needs to clear out?
How much food is your high schooler eating? How many fats? Fruits? Vegetables?
Because food is the fuel our body uses, we have to eat what our body is made up of, in the proportions it’s made up of them. That’s right–the food pyramid is upside down.
Learning to Drive
This is probably one of the new skills your high schooler will be learning that’s the easiest to pinpoint. The skill of driving as a whole is a new muscle to exercise for most high school age children, but there are smaller skills within it that they may also be refining. Being mindful of where others are in relation to you and keeping all the rules of the road in mind are some big ones that are being exercised here.
A lot of mental stress can come from the above mentioned–keeping rules balanced in your mind, watching where everyone else is, being sure to stay the right speed. All of this can build up in your teen’s mind and make their mental stress shoot through the roof. If they’re holding themselves tensed the entire time, that can cause a lot of physical stress on their body–not to mention any accidents they have.
Dating and Handling Friendships Well in High School
As your high schooler enters this new time of their life, they’re starting to interact with their peers in new ways, as well. Friendships change, grow, and end; people date and break up. It doesn’t need to be said that this can cause a lot of mental stress in the life of your high schooler. You can help them prepare by discussing things like boundaries with them. What are lines that they will not cross with friends? With significant others?
How much time is fair to expect to have for friends? With mounting homework as well as jobs, it’s likely not going to be as much as they once had. What about time with people they’re dating? What’s a fair amount of time to expect to be able to give them? Is this the amount your high schooler’s friends understand them to be able to give? If it’s less than their friends want, how can your teen set healthy boundaries?
How does your teen relate to their friends and their friends to them? Students in high school are neither fully children, nor fully adults, yet. They’re coming into adulthood, however, and where they want to go as an adult is going to affect their relationships. Do they all have the same expectations of a friendship? Are their goals the same or similar? How can they help each other reach these goals?
Your high schooler’s friends and significant other are separate people from your high schooler. This is easy to dismiss–‘of course I know that, Mom,’–but it gets harder in practice. How does your high schooler argue and communicate effectively so as to not burn bridges? Do they show affection the way their friends do? Just like in middle school, interests change as you come into your own, and, sometimes, that includes friend groups. How do you cut ties or create space with grace and kindness?
High school can be a difficult time, but it can also be one where you start to come into your own. This includes a delicate balance of becoming more independent and still needing their parents. Help set your children up for success in every area by getting their allergies and hormones tested, and getting adjusted to release the stress built up in their body. Contact a Wellness Way clinic today!