HOW TO HANDLE BACK-TO-SCHOOL EMOTIONS
The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. With our busy lives, it is easy to overlook our children’s emotions such as anxiety and nervousness when school begins. Whether preschool, elementary school, middle school, or high school, newness is experienced with excitement and anxiety. Regardless of the child’s age, the questions seem similar.
Will I be accepted or rejected?
What will my teacher(s) be like?
Will I feel lost in my surroundings or enjoy the adventure?
Will I be challenged in a good way or too much?
Will I get good grades?
As parents, our role is to help our children develop resilience, learn coping skills, and encourage them to express and share their feelings about returning to school.
Here are a few tips that can help your child deal with her back-to-school emotions:
1. Implementing consistency and routines that involve your child’s ideas. The more your child participates in the planning, the better she will feel. For instance, ask her what kind of snacks she would like to have at school and then shop together.
2. Getting back to basics. Allow plenty of time of sleep and make sure that every day includes plenty of down time as well. Provide balanced meals and nutritious snacks that will help your child to refuel her energy.
3. Listening to your child’s questions. When faced with a question, work collaboratively with your child. Questions may be “What if I forget my lunch?” or “What if I get off at the wrong bus top?”. The question about the forgotten lunch can be dealt by adding additional food items in the backpack or by calling the school to see if there is a forgotten lunch protocol in place.
4. Showing empathy toward your child. For instance, if your child expresses worry about not having enough friends, do not reply “Don’t worry about it!” or “Everything will be ok!”. These generic statements rarely provide reassurance. Instead, acknowledge your child’s feeling by saying “It sounds like you are worried about being alone at school.” Then, have a conversation with your child about how to make friends. Ask her about her own ideas and share yours as well.
5. Role-playing. Gaining mastery over worries will incite your child take control of worrisome situations. Have your child create a list of school-related worries and act out different ways to solve the problems. Encourage your child to try out two or three solutions per problem so that they always have a back-up plan.
While it is perfectly natural to experience anxiety and nervousness at the beginning of the school year, anticipating your child’s needs, planning ahead, and taking the time to talk about feelings and worries as a family will help your child adjust to the new school year.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.