As the lovely, warm days of summer wane into autumn, it’s natural that children come down with back-to-school fever. While some kids may be feverish with excitement at the start of the new academic year, others will show signs of very real distress, especially if it’s their first day in a new school.
Learning how to recognize stressful situations and deal with them is a vital coping skill, so consider the back-to-school jitters an opportunity to teach a valuable life lesson.
Address The Anxiety
Young children facing their first day at school may not be able to fully articulate what is bothering them, so it’s up to you as the parent to recognize the symptoms. Those symptoms may include:
Crankiness and mood swings
– Difficulties sleeping, or “avoidance” sleeping for teenagers
– Excessive nervousness about clothing, school supplies, and overall preparedness
– Seeking frequent assurance that all will be fine
– Withdrawal from social events and friends, especially for older students
– Complaints of headaches or stomachaches that are not related to any physical sickness
– Requests not to be taken to school, or asking to be picked up early or to take a day off
Although you may be tempted to bolster a child’s confidence by offering a quick-and-breezy comment like “You’ll be fine, you’ll see,” this tactic may backfire if he believes that his underlying issues are not being sufficiently addressed.
Facing The Fears
Pinpointing the concerns that are the source of your child’s anxiety is the first step toward allaying those fears. For instance, if your child is worried about where the bathroom is in her new classroom, or whether the new teacher will be kind, then planning a quick tour of the classroom in the weeks before school begins will go a long way toward easing your child’s anxiety.
For many children, back-to-school anxiety is multi-faceted or difficult for them to articulate. In these cases, consider these tips to help ease their fears:
– Emphasize the positive by making new clothing and school supply shopping an event, and reminding them of what they liked in previous academic years
– Put them in control by allowing them to wear their favorite outfit, choose their lunch, and bring a comfort item on the first day
– Practice the before-bed and early-morning routines a week or so before school begins
– Put power in their hands by giving them small erasers or glittery pencils to offer to potential friends
– Role play likely situations
– Be calm and listen closely to their concerns as you guide them in problem solving
Sending your children back-to-school can be anxiety-producing for you, too, so make sure you take a few deep breaths as you watch them climb into that school bus. More likely than not, they’ll come bounding home with smiles on their faces and lots of stories to tell.