Whether your child is starting school or going back to school this Fall, it is a transition that can bring both excitement and worry for children and parents alike.
Will I like my new teacher?
What if he or she is mean?
What if I have a lot of homework?
These are very common worries that children have in anticipation of the new school year. You try to reassure your child, tell him or her that everything will be fine, but it just does not do the trick. Here are some tips on how to help manage back to school anxiety for both children and adults:
1. KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT
Some schools arrange group or individual meeting with teachers a week or two before the school year starts. Some schools do not. It is a good idea to call the school and try to schedule an in-person meeting with the teacher and tour the school (if this is a new school for your child). If you are unable to meet with the teacher, try get in touch with them by phone or email and introduce yourself and your child.
We want to reassure our kids because we do not want them to be anxious. That's a no-brainer. Our own anxiety spikes when we hear our child talk about fears, worries, and other negative emotions and the first thing that comes to mind is to tell them that everything will be okay. Try keeping your own anxiety in check, and let your child know that it's okay to have worries about the new teacher and about school. If you have your own story to tell about back to school jitters, share it. Connect with them emotionally, so they feel accepted and understood and this will give them comfort that no amount of reassurance can bring.
3. BOOST CONFIDENCE
Help your child remember their accomplishments and successes from the previous year. Ask him or her to tell you what helped them feel comfortable in school last year. If grades are important to you, remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and your child's emotional health is more important than a perfect score on the test. The best way to increase your child's self-confidence is to send a strong message that you believe in their ability to make choices and to find their way out of difficult situations in life.
4. GIVE CONTROL
Make your child an active participant in back-to-school activities. Let him or her look at the list of school supplies, take them shopping and let them find the items on the list. Let him pick a school bag or character folders. Invite your child to put together a lunch menu. Work together to come up with a list of foods that you could pack in different combinations throughout the year. Whatever your back-to-school preparation process is, get your child involved to give them a sense of control and some freedom of choice.
5. STICK TO ROUTINE
Decide on a morning and after-school schedule, give it a week to make adjustments if needed, and stick to it. Routine and consistency make kids feel comfortable, safe, and secure. Keeping yourself organized and setting structure for the kids in the morning and after school will help keep everyone's stress levels as low as possible. If your back-to-school routine is different than the one you follow in the Summer, start following school night and school morning schedule two weeks before the first day of school.
WISHING YOU A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW SCHOOL YEAR!
Ilona Naroditskiy, MA, LPC is a professional counselor and owner at Spectrum of Solutions Therapy Services located in the Greater Philadelphia Area (Holland, PA). Ilona and other clinicians in her practice provide CBT to children, adolescents, and adults with Anxiety as well as a wide range of developmental, emotional, and behavioral issues. Ilona can be reached by phone 267-270-5527 or email firstname.lastname@example.org