Coping with Back to School Anxiety

Date: August 1, 2017 Author: admin Categories: Child Development, Summer and Back to school, Uncategorized

2017_BTS_ANXIETYThis year’s summer break is nearing it’s end and  back-to-school shopping, haircuts and clothes shopping is in full gear.  While many children, and parents alike, are excited about a new school year or perhaps starting school for the very first time, some children feel the complete opposite. For them, fear and anxiety are increasing every day as it’s getting closer to the first day of school.

For some children, they are facing a brand new school, for others, it’s a new grade that comes with a new teacher and new classmates. And for some, it’s starting school for the very first time. For these children the protests are more than complaints and little nervousness. It’s feelings of anxiety.

 

Feelings of anxiety are perfectly normal

According to pbs.org, feelings of anxiety are perfectly normal and to be expected during times of transition. While many people think of separation anxiety as a problem confined to toddlers and preschoolers, They are also present in elementary and middle school kids. And back-to-school anxiety can occur through high school!

In an article by anxietybc.com, they state that anxious children and teens worry about many different school-related issues, such as teachers, friends, fitting in, and/or being away from their parents. Some common worries include:

  • Who will be my new teacher and what if s/he is mean?
  • Will any of my friends be in my class?
  • Are my clothes OK?
  • Will I look stupid?
  • Who will I sit with at lunch?
  • What if I miss the bus?
  • What if math is too hard for me?
  • I can’t remember anything I learned last year!
  • What if something bad happens to mom or dad while I am at school?

 

While some level of anxiety affects most people, high levels of anxiety can be disruptive to both the child and the whole family. pbs.org has developed  a list of some signs to look for:

  • changes in eating habits
  • sleep disturbance
  • clingy behavior
  • meltdowns or tantrums
  • nail biting, hair twirling, skin picking
  • headaches or stomach pains
  • avoiding normal daily activities
  • increased irritability
  • increased crying
  • social isolation

As a apparent, it’s saddening to see your child’s behavior change, especially if they have had a positive outlook on school before. Your instinct may tell you to prolong the school start and let him/her stay home an extra day or two. However, this is not the answer. By letting your child stay home, you are only validating their fear. Moreover, they miss out on not only learning valuable information, but also the opportunities to develop and practice social skills as well as being acknowledged and praised for talents and meeting new friends.

 

anxietybc.com has come up with “5 steps To Deal With Back-to-School Worries

 

  • Take care of the basics:Ensure your child is getting enough sleep, eating regular meals and healthy snacks and has daily exercise. When your child’s mind and body are nourished, tackling school worries is easier.
  • Provide empathy: Listen to your child’s concerns. What is s/he worried about? Why does s/he expect that to happen?Let your child share his/her fears and talk about what’s on his/her mind.
  • Problem solve: Once you know what’s bothering your child, you can start to develop a coping plan. Anxious youth are often poor problem solvers and doubt their ability to cope. Addressing your child’s fear head on, by creating an active plan with concrete solutions, will significantly reduce the worry.
  • Focus on the positive aspects:Once you have an understanding of what your child is afraid of, and a coping plan to address these fears, you can encourage your child to re-direct attention away from the worries towards the positives.
  • Pay attention to your own behavior: Children take cues from their parents, so the more confidence and calm you can model, the more your child will believe s/he can handle this new hurdle. Be supportive yet firm. When saying goodbye in the morning, say it cheerfully – once! Ensure you don’t reward your child’s protests, crying, or tantrums by allowing him/her to stay home.

 

While many children are happy to start school, some are experiencing feelings of anxiety. While these feelings are very real and should be taken seriously, there are ways to coop with them if or when they occur. By covering the basic needs such as food, sleep and exercise, as well as talking to your child about his/her fear and coming up with positive solutions, going back to school can become a less stressful experience for your child and yourself!