Here’s what to do when homeschool teens feel overwhelmed.
What to do When Homeschool Teens Feel Overwhelmed
It can look like tears or:
- School refusal or
- Anxiety or
- Meltdowns or
- Shutdown or
- Argumentativeness or
- Excessive gaming or
- YouTubes all day or
- Sleeping too long or
- Staying up all night doing lessons
Did any of your homeschool high schoolers have one of those times when they felt overwhelmed in one or more of those ways? While many teens get overwhelmed at times, it can be managed. On the other hand, when overwhelm gets TOO overwhelming, it can bet scary.
Let’s talk about ways to help teens when they are feeling overwhelmed
Got a teen that may feel overwhelmed right now? Don’t worry. You can be a big part of helping them get things under control. Here are some things to help:
When teens (or parents, for that matter) feel overwhelmed, their logic system feels shut down. So, instead of being stressed about a big Chemistry exam, they feel like they have EVERYTHING in the whole world to do and it has to be done YESTERDAY. “Everything” is a LOT!
Also “Yesterday” means “late”…and “late” feels guilty and guilty feels panicky and sad.
However, when you help your teen slow down and actually name what the stressors are, it helps them “get out of their heads”, as it were. If they write a list of stressors, that helps even more. You see, naming things makes them get smaller. Instead of EVERYTHING, there are two things or even ten things. When things are named and numbered, they feel more manageable.
There is healing in words.
If your homeschool high schooler has had Health or Psychology class, they know that deep breathing reduces stress hormones. They learned that stress hormones are excellent for running from lions. However, because they fog your brain, they stink at helping deal with a big academic load, or a public speaking experience.
So stop and take three deep breaths together. (For some deep breathing exercises that REALLY help, download this freebie explaining progressive relaxation.)
Practice some psychological first aid to de-escalate the feelings of overwhelm
Practicing some self-care helps teens (and stressed-out parents) recalibrated. Here is a post on psychological first aid and a Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode that you can listen to together.
Mindfulness is one type of psychological first aid. There are lots of tips for non-cheesey mindfulness techniques in this post.
Help them define priorities
When EVERYTHING is the priority, things get overwhelming. So, take time to help your homeschool high schoolers, decide what are the top priorities. Next have them write down what they will do first, then next, then next…(from their list of stressors).
While helping them prioritize, you might have to help them delay doing some things such as:
- Extra reading and papers for Honors-level credits (catch up with that during the summer)
- Having too many tabs open on the computer
- Saving gaming until evenings or weekends
Do ONE thing
Help them pick one thing off their stress list. If necessary, help them get started with that one thing. After that, help them figure out the next one thing and do that.
This step is huge! It might seem obvious but for many teens it is not clear at all. They just see the EVERYTHING and feel overwhelmed and that induces panicky thoughts and behaviors. Thus, they need to be trained to do one thing at a time. It’s the old maxim:
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at at time!
So help your teens break down their stressors into one step at a time.
After they get started and make some progress, help them work on some scheduling and time management
When it comes to schedules and studying, every teen is different:
- Some teens have a hard time getting their time and schedules organized.
- On the other hand, some teens do not have an off button. They just do not know when to quit studying.
Take a few minutes and work on some time management skills with your homeschool high schooler. For instance:
- Help them learn to schedule backwards
- Use a calendar or scheduler (Homeschoolers shared some favorite electronic schedulers and time management skills in this post.)
You might need to help them feel they can re-engage. This takes a little self-talk and growth mindset. Here are some resources for that:
- Helping Teens with Engagement (Interview on Homeschool Highschool Podcast)
- Teaching Teens a Growth Mindset
- Resources for Growth Mindset
Follow up with daily check-ins, along with daily affirmations for their attempts at progress!
Help them understand their God-given personalities
One creative way to help teens get overwhelm under control is to help them understand themselves. God has given everyone a special personality with strengths and weaknesses. When they know what kind of time management will work best for their personality, it will be easier to find a good rhythm.
I have found it helpful to give my teens the Myers-Briggs Typology Inventory. It is a respected and simple personality test that gives a four-letter “score”. (They learn about MBTI in their 7Sisters Psychology text.) They can take a free version at Human Metrics and then read about their score at Keirsey.com.
For our purposes here, we will look at the last two letters in each score. That letter will either be “J” or “P”.
To put things simply, Js will be SO much happier when you help them learn to create and use a schedule and a syllabus. On the other hand, Ps will feel stifled with a strict schedule because they love to be spontaneous. Help them create an overall plan for each week, then some things to be accomplished each day- but let them choose times. Please make sure you work on this together so you have teens’ buy-in.
More on MBTI and personalities in homeschooling in this Homeschool Highschool Podcast interview.
No one can pray like a parent
As our 7Sister Kym says: Pray first, last and always.
Remember, though, for overwhelmed teens, it is often best to pray FOR, rather than AT them.
Make sure there is not more going on
Sometimes teens are feeling overwhelmed because there is more going on than too much to do. Instead, the overwhelmed feelings are a sign that there is some underlying anxiety, depression or grief. (This is not uncommon since the pandemic- teens have, like everyone, have been through a lot!)
OR perhaps there is a learning disability or neurodiversity.
There is help available and it is worth the investment of time and energy. You can get started with this information:
- Easing Transitions for Homeschool Teens (from our friend Betsy at BJ’s Homeschool)
- Teenagers Can Thrive with Autism (from our friend Penny at Our Crazy Adventures in Autism Land)
- Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Teens and Anxiety
- Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Teens and Depression
- How to Help Teens Manage Stressful Times
- Protecting Teens’ Health during Crisis Times
- Also, here is an interview with our friend, Meredith Curtis, who shares how to find strength in adversity
You matter and your teens matter, so hang in there! While you’re at it, you can find encouragement and support in the 7SistersHomeschool Facebook group. Join us!
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