Back to school is just around the corner, and emotions may be running high. Children and teens may feel excited, sad, anxious, nervous, afraid, stressed or a combination of feelings all rolled together. Sometimes this looks like increased crying or clingy behavior, temper-tantrums, irritability, withdrawal or acting out, stomach aches or headaches. Parents may be left wondering how they can help their child get through the back to school stress and anxiety.
Keep in mind that anxiety is normal and expected during times of transition! Let your child know that it’s okay to feel this way and they can get through it. Ask your child to tell you about the things they are worried about and really listen to their concerns. It can be tempting to try and reassure them with a quick, “don’t worry”, “it’s going to be fine” or “you’ll be okay”, but sometimes these reassurances backfire because it can feel dismissive to the child. Instead, hear your child out, help them to problem-solve and encourage them to seek solutions for the things they’re worried about.
Of course, we all want to squeeze every last bit of fun out of the summer! Yet one of the best ways to help kids handle back to school anxiety is to get them back into a routine well before school starts. Regular bedtime and wake-ups, and regular, healthy meals can set the whole family up to cope well. Create predictability! This can reduce the sense of uncertainty that comes with starting a new school year. Reconnect your child with a school friend for back to school preparation, do a run-through of getting to and from school, see if your child can meet their new teacher in advance and check out their new classroom, go through the afterschool plans and involve them getting ready for the new school year.
Children take emotional cues from their parents. We can help them face their back to school uncertainties by keeping ours in check. Lend your child your confidence, until they are able to build their own!
For additional help with back to school anxiety, or other emotional, behavioural or relational support, the counselling team at Synergy is here to help.