Getting back to school is an exciting time of the year, and it can be quite challenging as well. Younger kids can show a tendency to become more clingy or to show signs of separation anxiety, while older kids can be reluctant to jump back into the usual school routine.
Some of the concerns could include the potential problems with the new teacher, fitting in with other students in the class, doubts about self-confidence and whether the schoolwork would be too difficult to follow. Anxiety can show in different ways, so keep in mind that it can cause:
- Stomach aches,
- Problems with sleep,
- Feelings of self-doubt,
- Fear of separation,
- Lack of attention etc.
Fortunately, there are many ways to help your child overcome the difficulties and doubts. Read on to find out more.
How can I help my child with getting back to school?
Surely, you can recall your own school years with a variety of feelings. You can use that as a starting point, but keep in mind that your kid probably isn’t growing up in the same environment and probably wouldn’t recreate the same experiences you had in your own childhood.
Here are some ideas how to cope and prevent anxiety from ruining the beginning of the school year:
1. Make sure that your child is understood
Always start by asking your child simply: “How are you feeling?” or “What do you expect?”. Encouraging your child to discuss possible situations, hers or his fears or doubts, should lead to acceptance. This means that he should have a clear picture that she or he is understood and that you know exactly what . This isn’t a small deal and make sure that set a stage for this before anything else. Also, make sure that you understand the concept of anxiety.
2. Rehearse the school routine
A week or two before school starts, make sure that your child sets the alarm clock right on time, to get used to waking up early. Also, teach your child to plan ahead, including school supplies and lunches. Make sure that your child chooses what to wear during the first day of school.
If it’s hers or his first year, you can also drive to the school and take a walk around the classrooms, cafeteria, school yard etc. Also make sure to get most things, like school bag, books and lunch prepared well in advance, as this is known to give your child more time to catch a breath. Practice going to bed early and eating breakfast at home.
3. Role play
If your kids are anxious about returning to school, it’s not enough to just reassure them everything will be alright. If they’re worried about a specific situation that could occur in school, you can help by enactment. This can be a very useful technique, especially with new social environments.
After a role play, it’s important to discuss different aspects of the imagined situation with your child. For instance, you can switch roles, give meanings to different situations, provide useful alternatives to aggression or rage, and teach how to balance between patience and curiosity. Equipping your child with strategies on how to act when put under any pressure, bullied against or criticized is likely to greatly reduce the level of anxiety and even turn it into a positive excitement.
Younger children can use visual aids to show how they feel and what would happen on the first day of school.
4. Encourage anxiety-reducing activities
This could include reading an exciting book, enjoying a movie night, or a family picnic at a park. You should do this together, but also allow enough time for your child to explore and get some sense of independence. Another idea that could benefit your child is to visit a well-equipped indoor playground in Avondale that has enough amenities to satisfy your child’s need for physical activity and entertainment. On a playground, there are numerous possibilities, which can positively affect your child’s cognitive, motor and social development.
You can make a meet-up with a couple of friends who will attend the same school and this will likely turn the anxiety into a positive anticipation.
5. Focus on the timeline
Make sure to monitor step-by-step as the first day of school approaches. Sometimes, anxiety can kick in on the first day. In that case, make sure that your kid goes to school with a friend, to bring something that reminds of home.
If you have followed the first step, you have already established a level of trust between you and your child and you can give him cues. Remember, you shouldn’t put all that emphasis on your control, but your kid should feel free to tell you everything.
Unexpected things can happen at school, but the point is to know how to name them and remain safe and sound. If anything becomes too overwhelming, it’s best to consult a professional.