5 Ways To Help Calm Your Child’s School Anxiety
After all of the fun that kids have during the summer – the lazy days spent relaxing or playing or even the excitement of getting new school supplies or back to school clothes – the nerves can settle in as the first day of school approaches. This is typically true for all kids, but can be especially anxiety-inducing for those first entering school, starting a new school or transitioning from lower elementary to middle school or even high school.
There are ways to make the transition less daunting. It is the not knowing that really sends kids into the spiral, so in addition to using tips to help your child transition back to school, it is also time to take the stress as far out of the situation as possible. Here are five ways to ease the back to school anxiety for your kids.
Throw a Back to School Bash
Sometimes, stressful things can be turned into fun things by simply making it so. A back to school party can be the perfect way to do that!
You don’t have to make it a big production, but a back to school bash can include a movie projected in the backyard with school friends, or even just a couple pals over for a sleepover a week before school starts. Ease them back into spending time with missed peers in a fun way that gets all the kids ready and excited for the new year.
*Depending on what’s happening in the world, you can also make this a Zoom party!*
Make sure that when you plan the gathering, your child plays a key role in deciding what will happen, what to serve, and how things will go. As much as we try to know and love our children, their likes and dislikes can change quickly. You may have the best of intentions with a plan to play an evening of Beatles music and movies, only to find out that The Beatles were “so last season” and now they are into Halsey music and Jason Bourne movies. The party is intended to be about them, so make sure that it is really about them and do all of your research!
Actively Listen and Role-Play
Very often, we just need to be heard in order to feel better about a situation. Try to find out what your child is concerned about, and get specific. Once you have an idea of a few things, role-play to help ease that stress.
For instance, maybe they are worried about bullies or making new friends. Help them play out a scenario to make them feel more comfortable with the situation and discuss what they should do in certain instances. It always helps to practice first so that the moment of walking into school isn’t the first time they’ve broken down what might happen. Much anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown, so if you can help them “live in” the situation a few times before the real first time, it should help a great deal.
Take a School Tour
Is your child starting a new school? Whether it is in a new city or a transition into a new building, actually walking into the building beforehand is a great way to ease the nerves. You may not realize it, but it may help you as well! We all want to know that our children are going to be okay, so if they see that you are comfortable, they are more likely to believe it too.
When your child is entering a new building, there are a lot of unknowns. They may worry that they will get lost, that there will be nowhere to sit in the lunchroom or that they won’t be able to find the bathrooms. Taking a tour of the school in advance can be a great way to find all of the school building areas and erase that specific anxiety.
Seeing the new building is also an excellent time to meet with new teachers, principals and guidance counselors. See if there is a summer orientation that you can attend or whether you and your child can just come in to see the school during the weeks at the end of the summer when the teachers are getting their rooms ready. Also, be sure to ask your school if they have any peer to peer support options.
Sign up for Activities with Neighborhood Kids
Some schools start sports and activity programs a couple of weeks before school starts. This not only helps kids get into a good extra-curricular routine, but it can strengthen and build peer relationships. If you sign your child up for something that they already love, chances of building confidence in their abilities gets higher. As a bonus, they’ll also be exposed to kids that already share an interest with them.
Not all schools will offer programs like this, so if yours doesn’t, do your best to ask around. Talk to the parents on your block or in your neighborhood. Do your best to attend any functions that you see advertised for the area (park outings, barbecues, labor day events, etc.) so that your child has the opportunity to meet other people. Even knowing one person is a huge help when going to a new school.
Start the Routine Early
For many kids, just falling back into a routine can help with calming some of the back to school jitters. Two weeks before school starts, get your child used to a school bedtime and wake time. Once everyone is up, talk about ways to make school mornings less hectic.
Start thinking of things that worked last year and what could work even better this year. Make sure to stay consistent and build in the changes. Is it easiest to pick out clothes or shower the night before? If four people have to get ready in one bathroom, discuss schedules and how to best make this work. There are all kinds of things that can be coordinated way before you’ll be in the daily school grind, so take advantage of the time!
Anxiety is a completely normal thing to experience before heading back to school, so make sure to explain that to your child. Be sure that they know there is nothing to be embarrassed about and that you are there to help them.
The more they can let you know about their anxiety, the better it will be for both of you. We can’t address things we don’t know about, so do your best not to judge and to keep your ears open so that they can express everything they need to. Hopefully that will help put your child on the path to a great new year.