Going back to school comes with tons of excitement partnered with a weight of anxiety. It is easy for children to get caught up in a tangled web of “what ifs.” As parents, we have the responsibility to be the voice of reason, remain calm, and remind our kids of what to look forward to. When your child is facing a time of transition or change, like returning to school or beginning school for the first time, be mindful that they may go through a wave of emotions. With a little extra love and compassion, you can help your child’s transition go smoother.
When your child is anxious, he or she may be focused on the worries related to teachers, their friends, fitting in, or being away from you. They often exaggerate in their mind the fears about who their new teacher will be; with who or where they will sit at lunch; how they will make friends or questioning if their previous friends will be in the same class. While these worries are common, it is important to talk with your child so they can rationalize, prioritize and make peace in their mind.
Sit down with your child and encourage them to share their fears. Make open communication a habit. Setting up a special place and time to discuss these topics will help your child open up. Instead of giving total reassurance, it is helpful to try problem solving and planning exercises. This will help your child develop the tools they need to cope with an unexpected situation that may arise. Re-directing will also aid your son or daughter to focus on the positive. When they start in with the web of anxieties, practice going over what they are most excited about. When they focus on the positive, the negative ideas become smaller and smaller.
As your child experiences the back to school jitters, communication is essential and so are the basics. Helping your child stick to a schedule that includes restful sleep, healthy eating and exercise will enhance their ability to deal with stress. Pay attention to your behavior, and try sending out cues filled with confidence, comfort and peace. At least one week before school starts is also a good time to fine tune their routine so that when the big day comes, they are not in shock after a long and leisurely summer. Your child will get through this, and as you actively take action to ease their mind, you are helping to shape their first day into a memorable and positive experience.
By Sabrina Short