As kids get ready to start a new school year some of them wait with excitement and nervousness to see their friends, meet their teachers and have fun, others struggle with severe anxiety about going back to school, feel overwhelmed with the academic demands of the year ahead and socializing seems excruciating.
Here are 3 ways to support your child on the first week of school and throughout the school year:
Just listen. Allow you children or teens to share their feelings about going back to school and validate their fears. When children and teens get anxious, they often think that they are “the only ones who feel that way”. Sometimes they take it as far as to think that they are "messed up" and everyone else is strong and confident. As you know this isn’t true. Share perhaps a story of your first day of school or something you did for the first time that created anxiety for you, how you managed that situation and the outcome.
Help your children to problem solve. Find out what they are anxious about and help them to brain storm ways to solve it. You can go with them to meet the teacher and introduce yourself and your child; you can go online with your child and explore the school website if they’re transitioning to elementary, middle school or high school. You can also brainstorm solutions for problems they might be facing like how to make friends, what to do if another kid is being mean or bullying them or what to say if other kids ask them about their summer. Let them know that you’re there for them and together will find the answers.
Help your children identify healthy ways to cope with her emotions. Talking is a great coping mechanism. Being acknowledged, heard and validated can alleviate some anxiety. Taking a walk, playing a sport, swimming and journaling are other ways to release some stress and get some perspective.
Holding space for your children and showing them that you understand and care can make a big difference. By facing fears one at a time, using coping strategies and taking manageable risks, your child will move from a life filled with anxiety and fear to one in which she feels confident and empowered knowing that her parents are there to guide her and support her.