The sun is setting a little bit earlier. The stores are filling their aisles with binders, pens and paper. The furthest thing from your child’s mind is starting another school year. And if it is brought up, it may elicit school anxiety.
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, well let’s just say, 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?” Many a parent of children with anxiety disorders feel their own fear, bracing themselves with, “Oh no, here we go again!”
The Real Fear of Back to School
I’m sure that at some point or another every parent has heard the following phrase uttered.
“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. The fear, worry and panic becomes nothing more than a faded memory.
For other children, the ability to cope with back to school preparation is null and void. Just the concept of “back to school” elicits tremendous strain on their bodies, emotionally and physically.
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School Anxiety is Legitimate
School anxiety manifests itself in much the same ways as any other form of anxiety. It also includes anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, agoraphobia and selective mutism. When the fear of walking out the door leaves your child in utter tears, demonstrating aggressive behaviour and tantrums in the morning, it’s time to do a little detective work. 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.
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Decrease School Anxiety
What is a parent to do when their child won’t leave their side? There are plenty of ways that you can help your little worrier tame those back to school fears, but here are three quick solutions.
Watch Your Language
Our words have tremendous power over our lives. Our children are little sponges and absorb all that we say and do. Children feel our own anxiety. Unfortunately, they often learn anxiety from us.
Take note of the words 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 in children. Avoid talking about the trials and tribulations of the past year. Remember to be in the moment and speak about the here and now.
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Avoid Rushing into Routine
Don’t rush getting back to routine. The backpack and lunchbox have been away for a very long time. For some anxious children, it will take a couple of times to get all the needed supplies in order.
A lot of parents plan mini-trips for back to school supplies. One venture out to the stores may be just for a few new clothes. 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 setting your children up for success.
Create a Vision Board
Vision boards aren’t just for ringing in the new year. Creating a back to school vision board with your child will open the doors to some great discussions. In these discussions you will discover what they are excited about and what they are most fearful of.
Creating a vision board is a great way for your child to mentally explore and explain how they are feeling even if they can’t quite put it into words. Remember, it’s their vision. Give your child ownership of their thoughts, feelings and actions. It opens up the door to a bright future.
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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. By working to open those lines of communication and understand their feelings, we can help our children to be calm, prepared and resilient.