Does your child have back-to-school anxiety? If you have a verbal child, they have probably told you how they feel about going back-to-school but some kids may not know how to express their anxiety or may be embarrassed to admit that they are nervous. If you suspect your child is nervous about going to school, here are some effective ways to help a child with anxiety.
How To Help A Child With Anxiety
Don’t take your child’s anxieties personally.
Some parents may dismiss their child’s anxieties while others may take them as sign of their own failure to do something right. Neither would be fair to yourself or the child. You want to approach their anxieties in a calm, confident manner. Let your child know that it OK and natural to have anxieties but that you are confident that they will make it through this fine. This is one of the most important ways that you can help a child with anxiety.
Discuss the anxieties when your child is the most relaxed.
You don’t have to talk about your child’s back to school anxieties the second that they surface. If your child expresses thier concerns right before bed or when you are rushing out for an appointment, it is OK to let them know you want to discuss this important matter with them and a time when you think it is best to do so. Select a time when your child is rested and full (as well as yourself) for the best chances of a productive conversation with your child.
Start your discussion by letting them tell you their feelings.
In order to help a child with anxiety, it is important to give your child a chance to talk and really listen in order to get to the root of the fears and tell you why they are nervous. It may require some gentle probbing. Only when you find out what is really bothering them, can you begin to address it.
For example, I asked my son if he was excited for school and he replied, “I don’t know,” in a very unconvinced manner. I let it go and asked the same question later and got the same response so I knew something was up. This time I probed deeper, “Why aren’t you excited?” I asked. I got the same, “I don’t know” response again. I kept probbing and got this answer, “I don’t know if I will do as well as my sister.” I immediately assured him he would do as well and that he was smart just like she was. I reminded him of many things he had done well with in Pre-K and listed his talents. He was again unconvinced. So I kept calmly asking questions about why he felt that way in several ways until he unloaded, “But Mommy, I can’t read!” Then I explained that you don’t have to know how to read when you go to kindergarten, that he would learn the beginnings of that in kindergarten. “Oh”, he replied with obvious relief and then he started laughing, “Oh!” he said again. We were both very relieved and he began to get excited after that.
Be understanding but encouraging.
You might say something like this to you child, “Even mommy can be nervous about starting something new. When I started my new job, I wondered if I would like it and if I would like the new people. But then I made up my mind to have a positive attitude and I realized I didn’t need to be afraid. It all turned out fine and you’ll get through this fine too.” In other words, let them know you understand that they are nervous and that concerns are natural but don’t encourage the fears.
Help your child remember past successes.
Remind your child of other times they have successfully come through new experiences and challenges. “Remember when ____. You did just fine with that. I’m sure you will do well with this too.”
Facilitate your children’s problem-solving.
Once you pinpoint their anxiety, help them make a plan to address it. Let them tell you what they think will help and if they can’t think of anything then you might make suggestions. If they are afraid of riding the bus, for example, ask them what they think would help? If they need ideas, offer to tell them about how the route will go, maybe to find a neighbor that can be their buddy or tell them about how it works, call the office for details, etc.
Suggestions For Easing Back-To-School Anxiety
Plan some play date with classmates. Seeing some familiar faces at school will be a good feeling for them so try to plan some playdates before school starts.
Familiarity decreases anxiety.
Plan a tour of your school so they can visit school, play on the playground, walk the halls, find out where the cafeteria is and what the release area is. You will need to talk with the school office to find out how they handle this- each school is different.
Get into the school schedule early.
Get your kids going to bed on time and waking up early for at least a few days before school starts so they know what to expect are rested enough to meet the challenges of the first few days. Establish a before school and after school routine. You may find this after school checklist handy.
Make sure your child has a good breakfast and snack.
You will want your child to be full on their first day and not get crabby because they are hungry.
Don’t worry! You and your child will make it through Back-To-School anxieties just fine. You can help a child with anxiety by trying these tips and remembering to stay calm and composed. Just talk with your child in a calm way and brainstorm together about solutions and you will be building a positive framework for your relationship and ability to handle things together at the same time!