Helping Your Child With Back-to-School Anxiety
Heading back to school after the holidays is an exciting time and students may feel refreshed and be looking forward to seeing all their friends. The start of the school year can also produce feelings of anxiety. While it’s normal for kids to feel mild to moderate anxiety about going back to school some may experience a debilitating amount of anxiety.
As parents, we all want our kids to have a strong start to their school year. Some parents, particularly those with younger children, may be dealing with separation anxiety issues. Those with teens in high school may be observing their sons or daughters feeling a lot of academic pressure that can produce anxiety. If your son or daughter is going to a new school it is even more likely that they will experience anxiety about starting school.
Regardless of the reasons why your child is experiencing back to school anxiety there are ways to help. Here are some great ways to help your son or daughter cope with back-to-school anxiety:
By listening to your child you may learn more about the origins of their anxiety. Ask them how they feel about going back to school and acknowledge their concerns. Is their anxiety related to having a new teacher or a particular class? Are they worried about being bullied by their peers? Do they feel anxious as a result of academic pressure?
One of the best ways to make the back to school transition easier is to give your child time to adjust during the week or weekend prior to their return to school. Drop by the school a few times and walk around. Practice going to bed and waking up on their school schedule rather than their summer schedule so they have time to adapt their sleeping patterns. The more time you give your child to transition the less likely it is that you will have to deal with issues such as school refusal.
Allow for Extra Time
Although it may be challenging to wake up early to get out the door on the first day of school it's important not to be too rushed. Try to prepare as much as you can the evening before so there is plenty of time in the morning. Feeling rushed can increase anxiety for both you and your child and no one wants to be late, especially on the first day.
If your child is experiencing elevated anxiety it may be wise to let their teachers know so they can provide additional support and give you feedback on their progress.
Get Help with Hand-Offs
If your child is experiencing separation anxiety you may want to arrange to have their teacher meet them when you drop them off. It is likely the teacher may be too busy to do this or they may not be familiar enough with their teacher yet to feel comforted by their presence. Another option would be to arrange to arrive around the same time as one of their favorite friends. This can help your child feel more comfortable and less insecure about you leaving.
Organise Extracurricular Activities & Playdates
This is particularly important for students starting at a new school or who are attending school for the very first time, such as kindergarten. For smaller children, you can facilitate the formation of friendships by organising playdates with peers from their class. For older children, you may want to enrol them in a few extracurriculars that they find appealing so they can make friends with fellow students outside of their school.
Involve Your Child
Involve your son or daughter in the activities leading up to heading back to school such as choosing food for their lunches and shopping for back to school supplies. This can help them gain a sense of control and increase their enthusiasm.
Create a Study Schedule
For students in their final years of high school, they may experience a lot of anxiety as a result of the added academic pressure. It can be helpful to help them break down their study schedules for the term into manageable pieces so it is less overwhelming.
Model a Positive Attitude
Sometimes parents have their own anxiety about the end of summer break. Without realizing it our kids may pick up on our stress about preparing for the coming school year, shopping for school supplies and getting back into a routine. Remind yourself to relax just as you would do for your children.
Watch Out for the Physical Signs of Anxiety
Sometimes anxiety can lead to stomach aches and pains. If your child is complaining of an upset stomach and wanting to miss school it may be related to anxiety rather than an illness. They may also have a harder time falling asleep than usual due to anxiety or have changes in appetite.
If anxiety issues persist or worsen beyond the beginning of the school year it may be time to seek additional help and support. School related anxiety could be a sign of social anxiety or an anxiety disorder.