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Q. "My 14-year-old has started a new high school, and she is miserable. Though she's never had trouble making friends before, she's filled with anxiety this year. She's having trouble eating and cries often. Though she is confiding in me about her anxiety and sadness, I'm not sure what steps I should be taking. Is her reaction a normal adjustment to a new school or a sign of something more troubling?"
A. It isn't unusual for a teen starting high school to feel miserable. It's a huge adjustment as adolescents make their way around a new building, try to fit in to the more intimidating social scene of the high school, and take on the challenges of more sophisticated classes such as biology, geometry, or a foreign language.
Give it a month before talking to the school counselor about your daughter's anxiety and sadness. Time is often all it takes for teenagers to settle in and find their niche. During this month, do what you can to build her resilience as she faces these changes, challenges, and chaotic feelings.
While you use these eight approaches, notice if she's making progress in her adjustment. As you accept her feelings, encourage her to problem-solve while exuding confidence that she will eventually settle in and succeed. If this is not the case after a month, it's time to call the high school counselor.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.