Jitters. Anxiousness. Butterflies.
Whatever you or your child calls it, going back to school after a long summer can be scary. Being in a season where kids are not around their peers 25-30 hours a week and then having to go back can seem daunting, especially when they’ll have a new teacher, new curriculum, and possibly brand new peers as well.
Most of worries children experience are totally unrelated to ours. Kids have their own stress; their own ways they feel unprepared or inadequate – whether that be in academics, the social structures amongst students, or even just learning how to balance a schedule again.
Your child may not fit into this category – some relish the back-to-school shopping, new notebooks and pencils. Others can seem indifferent. But many children can appear frightened or even resistant to the first week of September. This does not necessarily mean that they will struggle as a student – in fact, many of the ones that are anxious are actually that way because they have a desire to perform well but are worried they will fall short.
“What if I don’t know the answer when a teacher calls on me?”
“Who will I sit next to?”
“What if I get lost and can’t find my classroom?”
Whatever the woes may be, here are some ideas on how to prepare your child for school and ease their anxiety.
Kids may not know how to articulate this, but structure, consistency, and predictability are huge during child development. Not knowing what to expect at school or having way too much variety can detract from a child’s learning and peace of mind because they are constantly working to adapt.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start implementing small elements of structure and consistency into the regular everyday before school starts. This could look like, but isn’t limited to:
– Eating breakfast every day (even if it is not at the same time)
– Going to bed around the same time (notice we say “around” – it is more difficult in the summer for sure!)
– Setting an alarm clock in the morning a few minutes earlier every day until it is back up to school time
– Having (or helping!) your child pick out their clothes every night before bed so they know what they’ll wear the next day
Talking it Out
Encourage your child to talk through their fears and mention specifically what might be bothering them. Tell them it’s normal to have concerns and it’s okay to be scared. Sometimes they may not want to admit this in front of other people, so maybe seeking a private place to have these discussions might help your child open up if they are having difficulty doing so.
Make Plans and To-Do Lists
When your child voices their fears, it is easy for adults who have been there to say, “You’ll be fine!” or “There’s absolutely nothing to worry about!” Validating your child’s concerns is very important, not only because it shows you care but that you can relate to some degree. Ask questions for clarification and to show you’re listening.
Then, help them come up with ideas of a game plan for any specific hypothetical predicament that worries them. This can stand as an excellent teachable moment both in critical thinking and problem-solving.
For example, if one issue is about finding the bus, practice walking to the bus stop together or finding out what number the bus will be.
If one of their fears is about forgetting their lunch in the before school, create a morning checklist of things they must do before leaving the house.
These ideas and more can help your child feel more prepared for school and every aspect it entails. For more information or more ideas in helping your child, go to www.anxietybc.com