Every child reacts differently to the prospect of going back to school. Those who feel anxiety usually move past it once a few days or weeks have passed. That said, the initial anxiety they feel is genuine. Then you have the children who don’t smoothly move past the anxious thoughts. The transition never seems to get easier.
A parent can play a critical role in these scenarios. They can validate their child’s emotions and, just as importantly, each parent must check in with themselves to make sure they aren’t causing more anxiety. There are countless ways to help an anxious child and this work begins with learning to recognize the signs.
Common Signs of Anxiety
Even when they reach high school age, your children can struggle with finding the right language to express their emotions. Therefore, it becomes crucial that parents learn to recognize anxiety symptoms. This is not about the occasional nervousness or worry. We’re talking about signs that persist for weeks and hamper the child’s ability to handle daily functioning, e.g.
- Sudden disruptions in eating and sleeping habits (more or less of either)
- Digestive problems
- Short temper
- Restlessness and an inability to focus and concentrate
- Unexplained crying and/or agitation
- Becoming more clingy
- Active expression of concerns, worries, and fears
Left unchecked, anxiety can hurt your kid’s academic performance and social life. In an older child, anxiety can increase the risk of substance abuse. Obviously, it is essential that such children get the help they need and deserve.
How To Help Your Child Deal With Anxiety About Going Back To School
Listen to their worries and make it clear that you take them seriously. Acknowledge that starting school can make people nervous and remind them that they are not alone. Avoid phrases like “You’ll be fine!” It may sound encouraging to you but can add to your child’s anxiousness. They’ll begin to wonder if there’s something specifically wrong with them.
As mentioned above, you can unknowingly contribute to the tension. What stress are you feeling and expressing about the start of the school year? Your child can sense your emotions and may feed off of them. Also, watch how you phrase questions. If your child struggled with writing the previous year, don’t ask if they’re nervous about English class this year. You can gently inquire with something like, “What material will they cover in your classes this year?” Give them room to open up at their own pace.
- Begin school-year routines (like bedtime and preparing tomorrow’s clothes) a week or so before school begins.
- Do some practice runs of the commute. If your child takes a school bus, you can drive them on the route a few times to make them familiar in advance. If your child is a teen and will be driving on their own to school, urge them to do the drive a few times to get comfortable with the roads, parking, etc.
- If possible, visit the school before classes start. Meeting one of their upcoming teachers (again, if possible) could be a huge relief.
- If your child has classmates they haven’t seen all summer, arrange a play date to get them together before the school semester commences.
Stay Positive, But Ask For Help When You Need It
You can reassure your children and help them make lists of the positive aspects of school. But if your efforts don’t ease their mind, reach out to a professional. A counselor can provide so much solace and guidance for both you and your children. Let’s connect for a free consultation about child therapy.