Are Your Kids Having Back to School Anxiety?
Summer’s dying down, here we are on the aisle with a list of school supplies.
Are the kids excited for school?
Are they nervous?
Anxiety kicks in, as parents how can you help?
Now, it’s important to know where your kids mindsets are. Kids can feel pressure to handle all the changes. Kids wonder, ‘Where am I going to be’? Am I going to get lost? What’s the class going to be like? What’s the teacher going to be like?’ Will the work be a lot harder?’”
Consider all the narratives, most lessons at school doesn’t depend on their grades. Your child is developing and practicing social skills.
They are learning how to greet adults and teachers, as well as how to play with classmates and navigate the playgrounds. School offers a chance for your child to build skills for success in these day-to-day activities.
You want your child to build their strengths — to successfully overcome a fear and come out on the other side, having succeeded. You’re trying to get them into what we call a “growth mindset”, which is the ability to adapt, develop, and work their hardest.
Children learn to be stronger through experience.
Here are some tips to help you support your kids:
Tips to Ease Anxiety
- A week or two before school, start preparing children for the upcoming transition by getting back to school year routines, such as a realistic bedtime and selecting tomorrow’s clothes.
- Arrange play dates with one or more familiar peers before school starts. Research shows that the presence of a familiar peer during school transitions can improve children’s academic and emotional adjustment.
- Visit the school before the school year begins, rehearse the drop off and spend time on the playground or inside the classroom if the building is open. Have the child practice walking into class while the parent waits outside or down the hall.
- Come up with a prize or a rewarding activity that the child could earn for separating from mom or dad to attend school.
- Validate the child’s worry by acknowledging that, like any new activity, starting school can be hard but soon becomes easy and fun.
Take extra care for a child with anxiety or depression.
There’s a difference between a child with first-day nerves and one dealing with anxiety or depression. If your child has these particular challenges, partner with the school. You want to prep the teachers and care team at the school to know your child is at risk.
For those who get serious panic attacks, you might teach them to ‘breathe a square.’ You can imagine a square with four sides, and you breathe in two sides, and breathe out two sides. And then the sides can go slower and slower.
You might explain to the teacher, ‘If my kid seems like he’s tuned out, calling him out can make him more anxious. Here’s what has worked for us to help them tune in. Some possible supports for a child under stress could include:
- A gentle touch on the shoulder as the teacher goes by.
- Seating that isn’t near children that they anticipate are a source of stress.
- Partnering with a teacher to read that child’s cues.
However, it is normal for nearly all children to experience mild back-to-school jitters that gradually diminish over a few weeks. If a child’s anxiety is causing a great deal of distress in her or his daily life, or if getting along with family members or friends becomes difficult, normal activities in and outside of school are avoided, or there are physical symptoms like stomachaches or fatigue, these ‘red flags’ indicate that the child’s anxiety should be evaluated by a child psychologist or psychiatrist.