Over the years as a family therapist, I always have parents calling my office before and after that first day of school to help their child with school anxiety. First off, please remember that it is completely normal for your child to be worried, irritable, and to regress back to earlier developmental behaviors. Back to school may not seem like a huge hurdle for many of us parents. However, please remember for your child the words “going back to school” may be similar to you finding out that you have to parachute out of an airplane – Terrifying!
So, here are few tips:
#5 Even if your child does not tell you they are anxious about starting back to school, if you see more behavior problems, not sleeping at night, irritability, and regressive behaviors – your child is probably feeling anxious about all of the preparations and talk of going to school. So, tell your child it’s normal to feel both excited and scared and worried. See if you can get your child to open up about their particular fears.
#4 Tell your child stories about times when you were nervous about starting a new job, traveling to a new place, or going back to school when you were a child. And be sure to share stories about how you overcame your fears and made it through the big first day!
#3 Give your child extra time and attention the week before and during the first week back to school. If possible, try not to have as many activities on your work schedule so you can give your child extra time and reassurance. The additional structure and TLC will go a long way towards easing your child’s anxiety.
#2 Show your child as much as you can before school about what their school classroom will look like, how their schedule will go, and review the morning and afternoon schedule for your household. If your school has an open house in advance of the first day of school, definitely take your child to see the classroom and to meet the teacher. If not, find out if your child’s teacher will allow a quick personal visit to help your child to feel calmer. Children who worry will often feel better when they know what to expect with their surroundings and their schedule.
#1 Have a couple of schoolmates over the week before school to play. Encourage the children to talk about what they will do at recess. This helps your child feel comfortable they will have someone to talk with and play with on the playground.
Of course, some children will stay have what seems like an abnormal amount of anxiety even after you have tried all of these tips. I will talk about what to do in tomorrow’s blog should your child have anxiety that seems unmanageable.