Dealing with the Post-Holiday, Back-to-School Blues


The holidays are an exciting time of year. It’s a chance for the family to get together and enjoy delicious food, games and stories. But ask a teen what they like most about the holidays, and they’ll surely answer, “No school!”

Their reluctance to return to school at the end of the holiday break, therefore, comes as no surprise. Even adults heave a heavy sigh when thinking about going back to work.

But if your student’s attitude continues to be dour after school is back in school, there could be something more going on. Here are some tips for dealing with the back-to-school blues.

Remind Him There’s Something to Look Forward To

Your child or teen might need a reminder that school isn’t just about studying ad nauseam. There are other things that make it worthwhile: seeing friends, playing on a sports team, or even eating lunch can all be things that make school more appealing to a reticent student. Usually, there is at least one class, subject or club that they can look forward to as well, especially in top high school performing arts programs, where choir, theatre or dance can capture a student’s passion.

For a mild case of the blues, this is enough to give a little bit of cheer to an otherwise mopey adolescent.

Delve Deeper for Prolonged Sadness or Reluctance

If your student is suddenly and persistently reluctant to go to school, even to the point of staying home frequently with complaints of illness, it’s time to dig a little deeper into the problem. When he reports headaches or stomachaches with regularity, your eventual reaction may be to assume that he’s making up the ailments in order to skip school. However, anxiety can manifest with physical symptoms that are just as real and disabling as cold or flu symptoms.

Plus, such a strong unwillingness to go to school points to a larger problem. Is your child being bullied? Is he embarrassed by his academic performance? Whatever the issue, the first step is talking to your child in order to get to the bottom of it.

If your child seems to simply want to avoid the rigors of academia to just stay at home and play video games, one strategy is to make staying at home as boring as possible. Insist he stays in bed and sleeps and eats bland foods, just as you would if he were truly sick with a stomachache or a migraine, and perhaps even inform him that he’ll have to go to the doctor if he misses school.

Being with friends at school, no matter how dreary the subject matter, suddenly looks far more appealing than the alternative. However, bullying and harassment can be a real problem. Maintain an open, trusting dialogue with your child about any problems he encounters.

Handling Homesickness at Boarding School

The holidays mark an extra special time for boarding school students because they get to spend time with their families after not seeing them for a few weeks or months during the school year. After returning to school, a fresh wave of homesickness can hit the student.

You can help your boarder overcome feelings of loneliness or longing by establishing a regular check-in time. Non-boarding students typically have the opportunity to “check-in” and chat with their parents after school at dinner, and your student can do the same with you over the phone.

These days, there are many communication options available: you can simply send text messages if chatting on the phone causes too much emotion during a wave of homesickness, for example. On the other end of the spectrum, you can make a video call if a little more intimacy is required than just hearing one another’s voices.

In short, regardless of the cause, communication is key when it comes to the back-to-school blues.