The sun is setting a little bit earlier, the stores are filling their aisles with binders, pens and paper and the furthest thing from your child’s mind is starting another school year. When I was a kid it was always in late August that I started to map out how the coming year would be different. I would push aside all of those fears, what if’s and panic and I would visualize just how the next year should pan out. Some years this worked wonderfully and others – my ideas got no further than my front door. It is usually around this time of year that parents begin to wonder, “ Is my child’s anxiety going to inhibit them from going to school?” in other words, “Oh no, here we go again!”
Fear of Back to School
I’m sure that at some point or another every parent has heard the words uttered to them, “I don’t feel good. I can’t go to school today?” With a little reassurance and realistic thinking the child will find their way to school and the fear, worry and panic is nothing more than a faded memory. For other children the ability to cope when going back to school elicits tremendous strain on their bodies both emotionally and physically.
School anxiety manifests itself in much the same ways as any other form of anxiety. It also includes such anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, agoraphobia and selective mutism. When the fear of leaving the house leaves your child in utter tears, aggressive behaviour, and tantrums in the morning, it’s time to do a little detective work and figure out what’s really behind the behaviour. Left unaddressed this kind of fear and apprehension can lead to more serious problems down the road.
Tips to Decrease School Anxiety
So what do you do when your child won’t leave your side? There are plenty of ways that you can help your little worrier tame those back to school fears.
Watch your language – We have such power over our lives with nothing more than our words. Our children are such little sponges to all that we say and do. They feel our own anxiety and they learn so much from us. Take note of the things you say and how you are saying them. As September rolls closer it’s important not to say things that will elicit even more fear and worry by talking about the trials and tribulations of the past year. Remember to be in the moment speaking about the here and now.
Don’t rush getting back to routine – The backpack and lunchbox have been away for a very long time and for some anxious children it will take a couple of times to get all the needed supplies in order. A lot of parents do little mini trips so one venture out is just for a few new clothes and the next week might be for markers, pens and paper. Talk to your child and find out what pace suits them. That way you are only setting them up for success.
Vision Board – Vision Boards aren’t just for ringing in the calendar new year. Creating a vision board with your child will open the doors to some great discussions about what they are excited about and fearful of. It is a great way for your child to explore and explain how they are feeling even if they can’t quite put it into words. Remember, it’s their vision and by giving them ownership of their thoughts, feelings and actions it opens up the door to a bright future.
Little worriers and big worriers don’t always say in black and white just how much they are consumed by panic, fear and worry. A new school year has so many unknowns. It’s only human to feel a little anxious and excited, but by working to open those lines of communication and understand their feelings, we can help our children to be calm, prepared and resilient. Here’s to the beginning of a great new school year.