Going back to school ought to be fun and exciting for students. Unfortunately, it can leave even the brightest boys and girls feeling very intimidated and worried. If your child suffers from this type of anxiety, just know that he or she is not alone, and you can improve your child’s situation.
The question is, how can you ease back to school anxiety so that they can make the most of their academic experience and thrive socially? Just keep reading for our top 12 tips.
1. Support Your Child’s Mental Well-being with a Stable, Balanced Diet
During the summer months, we tend to go on vacation mode, and that includes diet, too. It’s easy with so many fresh fruits to choose from. What’s more, ice creams and popsicles are a go-to treat to cool you down when the heat is at its highest temperatures. And let’s not forget all the parties and celebrations that fill the summer and our plates with cakes, cookies and luscious deserts.
But what do all of these things have in common? Sugar. And lots of it. And while it’s hard to say “No” to this tantalizing ingredient, it’s time to cut back on sugary foods. By replacing sweet treats with healthy fats, vegetables and more proteins, you help support your child’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
2. Look Out for Anxiety Driven Behavior
If your child’s behavior is taking a turn for the worse, you might just think your child is being bad. But if you take a closer look, you may see that his or her behavior is indicative of a deeper problem: back to school anxiety.
What are some of the common behaviors that may increase as school approaches? Tantrums, meltdowns, moodiness, clinginess, headaches, stomachaches, poor sleep, nightmares, a change in eating habits, crying, as well as irritability, are some of the typical indicators that something’s bothering your child. In this case, it’s the thought of going back to school.
3. Don’t Punish or Shame Your Child’s Anxiety
Usually, parents choose to address bad behavior with disciplinary action. However, when it comes to anxiety-driven behavior, this might not be the best move. That’s because it doesn’t solve the root of the problem. What’s more, it will only make it worse.
Instead, you can be firm and kind, and remind your child that tantrums and meltdowns are not acceptable behavior. But then, take time to be empathetic and understand why they’re acting out.
4. Talk with Your Child About What They’re Worried and / or Scared About
Going back to school can be a scary time of year. And a child may not know how to process this anxiety. That explains why some children act out and you observe an increase in “bad” behavior. To help your child unpack and process these difficult emotions and worries, take time to talk with him or her.
Create a safe, nonjudgmental place for your child to share with you what they’re worried about. It could be any number of things, but here are some of the common worries:
- Teachers: Will I like them? And will they like me?
- Classmates: Will I like them? And will they like me? Will I fit in? Will they be mean to, or bully me? Are my clothes, shoes and accessories cool enough?
- Classes: Will they be hard for me? Will I pass or fail?
- School Building: Will I get lost?
- Separation: I will miss my mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, etc.
5. Communicate That You Will Spend Time Away from Each Other
Be honest with your child and let them know that you will separate from each other when they go to school and you go to work. By being truthful and informing your child, you can help them prepare for what’s coming.
You can even create solutions for when he or she misses while they’re at school. Can you give your child a handwritten note? Can you plan special things to do when you both come home?
6. Create a Back to School Routine Before Classes Begin
To help your child get back into the swing of things, start to create a stable routine in the weeks leading up to school. Early bedtimes, early mornings, regular meal times, scheduled quiet times and more exercise can help create much-needed stability for your child’s anxious feelings.
If your child has a summer reading list, consider adding, Wonder by R. J. Palacio. It’s a heartwarming, yet realistic account of a young boy starting school for the first time. It can give your own child lots of courage before embarking on their own educational journey.
7. Visit the School with Your Child
Spend a couple hours helping your child become familiar with their new school. Walk the halls, visit his classrooms, and locate the restrooms, cafeteria, gym and all the main spots. This way, your child will feel more confident when it’s time to brave it on his own.
8. Know Your Child’s Schedule
Another great way to ease your child’s back to school anxiety is for them to become familiar with the new daily schedule. Knowing what to expect can not only reduce anxiety but can give them something fun and exciting to look forward to, like gym time, science or art class.
9. Arrange play dates with other classmates
Even adults worry about having to socialize with strangers, and your child may face the same concern. To antidote this, see if your child can spend time getting to know future classmates before school begins. Being able to walk the halls with one or two familiar faces can make all the difference!
10. Discuss Bullying and What Your Child Should Do If He or She Experiences It
Unfortunately, schools can become the stomping grounds for cruel and unkind behavior, and even though we don’t want our child to experience this, it’s important to empower them with the tools they need if and when they face it themselves.
What are some ways that they can address it? One solution is to let you know, as well as their teachers. Discuss other coping mechanisms to help your child deal with potential bullies.
11. Exercise Frequently
Exercise is a wonderful way to support not only physical health, but mental and emotional wellbeing, too. Take time to exercise three to five times per week with your child. Maybe that means walking, biking, swimming, soccer or any other of your favorite activities. It’s a natural mood booster and can help lessen anxiety.
12. Discuss Positive, Exciting Opportunities That School Provides
There’s no use denying anxiety, but why not take time to also focus on the positives that come with school time? Help your child imagine making wonderful new friends and learning fascinating facts and ideas in each subject. You can also share your own school stories to show just how great it can be.
Back to school anxiety is a real experience for many children. By using these 12 tips, you can help to reduce your own child’s worries and prepare them for many positive opportunities.