Back-to-school will soon be here for kids across the country. They may experience many feelings during this time of year. While many feel a little nervous about returning to the classroom, some face anxiety that can make the transition especially difficult.
Here are five ways to support your child through back-to-school anxiety.
1. Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety
Nearly 10% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Many factors play into these conditions, including genetic components, unresolved fears and previous traumatic experiences. Your child may not have a diagnosable condition now, but living with anxiety can lead to one.
There are signs to be aware of that could indicate your student is struggling, such as changes in sleeping patterns, increased clinginess, isolation or an increase in negative behaviors. If you notice these or other abnormal behaviors, it's best to address them.
2. Create a Supportive Environment
Ask them about their feelings but don’t pressure them to talk about them. It could stress them more. Instead, set a positive example by talking about things you’re anxious about and how explain how talking about them can help lessen nervousness.
Don’t assume you know why your child is facing anxiety around the new school year, but be aware of potential causes. They may fear a new classroom environment, feel stressed about assignments and grades or struggle with negative social interactions and making new friends.
3. Create Something to Look Forward To
Playing games, having a movie night, enjoying a special meal or going on a special outing could help them get through the day. It can assure them that, no matter what happens at school, they will have an enjoyable end to the day.
Consider packing an encouraging note or small treat in their lunch to make them smile. When preparing for the new academic year, let them choose something neat they can’t use until school starts. Light-up shoes, fun erasers, a new pair of headphones or other unique school supplies can make the start of the year a little less scary.
4. Do Test Runs for the New School Year
No matter the age, school kids can benefit from waking up and going to bed earlier a week or two before school starts. It gives their body time to adjust to the new schedule and can make the first week less daunting. A healthy morning routine can help them feel better about going to school.
Consider packing lunches in the weeks leading up to school so they can practice opening things and figuring out what food combinations they like.
An open house could be an excellent opportunity for your student to learn about their new surroundings. Meeting their teacher, seeing their desk and navigating the hallways could demystify the new school year.
5. Talk to Professionals
If your child is struggling with returning to school and it doesn’t seem to get better, consider contacting a professional.
Talk to their teacher, a school counselor or a child psychologist who has experience with anxious students or treating childhood anxiety.
With the right resources, you can better help your anxious child and build a support network for them that could be invaluable during the year.
Helping Your Child Cope With Back-to-School Anxiety
Returning to school can be challenging, and it is essential to validate your child’s feelings and help them cope with the journey. By listening, creating a safe space and preparing them as much as possible, you can help them start the year on the right foot.