By Keely Kelly, LPC
The start of a new school year can be both exciting and nerve-wracking for children. As a therapist, I have witnessed firsthand the anxieties that often accompany this transitional period. In this article, we will delve into the common triggers of back to school anxiety and explore parenting techniques that can help ease children’s worries and foster a positive school experience.
Back to school anxiety can arise from various sources, including separation anxiety from parents, fear of the unknown, social pressures, academic expectations, and even the changes in routines. It is essential to recognize that each child’s experience is unique, and their worries should be met with empathy and understanding.
The following are some tips that can help your child ease back into school feeling more resilient and confident.
1. Empathizing with Their Feelings:
As parents, it is crucial to create a safe space for children to express their feelings openly. Validate their emotions, letting them know it’s okay to feel anxious about going back to school. By acknowledging their fears without dismissing or minimizing them, we can help children feel supported and more confident in navigating these challenges.
2. Open Communication:
Encourage open communication with your child. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings regarding the upcoming school year. Active listening is vital to understanding their worries and identifying potential stressors. Providing them with a compassionate and receptive environment can help them process their emotions and concerns.
3. Gradual Transition:
To ease the back-to-school transition, consider adopting a gradual approach. Start implementing school routines a few weeks before the academic year begins. This will help children adjust to the changes in their daily schedule and reduce the abruptness of the transition.
4. Familiarizing the Environment:
If possible, visit the school with your child before the term starts. Familiarize them with their new classroom, teacher, and any other significant changes. This can alleviate anxiety related to the unknown and provide a sense of familiarity when school starts. Many schools have meet the teacher events or times they can tour the campus. Take advantage of those!
5. Encouraging Independence:
As parents of school aged children, it is important to emphasize fostering independence and autonomy in children. Allow your child to take part in the decision-making process, such as choosing school supplies or picking out their outfit for the first day. This involvement empowers them and boosts their confidence, making the school experience feel more manageable.
6. Role-playing and Problem-solving:
Role-playing can be a useful tool in preparing children for different scenarios they may encounter at school. Engage in playful role-playing with your child, acting out various social situations or challenges they might face, such as introducing themselves to new friends or asking for help. This exercise enables them to practice problem-solving skills and builds their resilience.
7. Manage Your Own Anxieties:
Children can often pick up on their parents’ emotions. It’s essential to manage your anxieties and model calmness and positivity about the upcoming school year. When parents exhibit confidence in their child’s ability to handle the challenges, it reassures the child and reinforces their own self-assurance. One good way to ease both your and your child’s anxieties about the school year is coming up with some positive affirmations that can be recited on the way to school or before leaving the house.
I do not compare my success against the success of others.
I am smart.
I am talented.
I am loved.
I can learn anything.
I always try my best.
I see the best in myself and others.
Back to school anxiety is a natural part of a child’s development, but we can help them navigate this period with increased confidence and emotional resilience. By understanding their feelings, communicating openly, and providing support, parents and caregivers can create a secure and nurturing environment that fosters a positive school experience for their children. Remember, each child’s journey is unique, and through awareness of their mental health this allows us to tailor our support to meet their individual needs. Together, we can help our children thrive as they embark on a new school adventure.