Back to school – a familiar time of year when kids transition from a summer off to the routines of being back in school. It's a time that can be both exciting and naturally a little nerve-wracking. Some kids are excited to see their old friends, start a new grade or have a new teacher. But for some kids, going back to school may be extremely worrisome, stressful and even overwhelming.
To help your kids settle into the new school year, here are 9 simple strategies that can help manage anxieties.
- Be Understanding: It's important to understand the worries that children may have, such as those related to new teachers, new grades, fitting in or moving away from friends. These worries are common and may even be familiar to you. Stay open-minded and hold on the judgment that kids may be feeling about going back to school.
- Listen and Talk to Your Kids: Kids may act out with anger, yell, scream, or have trouble sleeping if they’re feeling anxious, stressed or worried. Let your kids open up and share their fears and feelings with you. Be careful not to dismiss their fears with phrases like, “don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” but rather, validate them. (Refer to our emotion regulation tips here to help kids become more familiar with their emotions).
- Problem-Solving Plans: Set some problem-solving plans in place if listening and talking through their fears isn’t enough. Have a strategy for what to do if an anxious situation arises (ex. self-soothing techniques: listening to music for teens or having a special object for younger children). Having healthy coping mechanisms in place can give the comfort of having a plan, even if kids still feel a bit nervous.
- Practice Walks to School: Help ease kids’ anxiety by taking them on some practice walks to and from school. Repeated exposure to the new environment will gradually reduce their nervousness and make them feel more comfortable. If your child is particularly anxious, contacting the school in advance to arrange a tour can be helpful. (For older children, encourage them to attend school-organized orientation activities).
- Slowly Re-Introduce Routines: Early bedtimes, homework/reading time each day, packing lunches or bags before bed, and picking out clothes are all easy routines that you can start to re-introduce at the end of August. Starting these a little earlier will help reduce the rush of anxieties and allow time to handle any bumps in the road when the school year officially starts.
- Brainstorm a To-Do List and Do One Thing at a Time: Being prepared can help give a sense of control and lessen anxiety. With your kid, brainstorm the things you need to do or have to prepare for school. Be sure to do one thing at a time if your kid finds going back to school overwhelming. Start with a list of “to-dos” and either break them down into manageable tasks or lump small tasks together that you can do all at once.
- Be Open and Honest with Teachers: Open and honest communication with teachers can help make a smooth transition to school. Be brave and ask for what your kids need, whether that’s a daily phone call, physical paper resources, or space to work through anxieties separately.
- Practice Self-Care: Your mental and physical health is just as important as your child’s. Make sure to practice self-care by journaling, meditating, stepping outside for a walk, and talking to friends or even a counselor. Be intentional and set aside time for yourself each day to do the things that make you feel happy and relaxed.
- Reach Out for Professional Help – If you feel your child or teen’s anxiety is unmanageable, or they’re having serious mental health experiences, and you don’t know where to turn, Lutherwood's Front Door is here to support you and your family. Please reach out by calling 519-749-293 to speak with our staff.
Above all, the most important thing is to make sure kids feel safe, loved and confident that the people in their lives will be there to care for and support them through anything. Kindness and open communication will help you and your kids feel supported as another year of school begins!
We wish you all the best as you settle into a new school year this September!
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