It’s been a long road back. Regardless of pandemics and rotating life restrictions, our children are headed back to the classroom and they may experience some back to school anxiety. Some of them are worried about the changes that have taken place. And some of them are worried about the things that have worried them in past years. You may be anxious as you consider how to help with your child’s back to school anxiety.
The following ideas may be valuable tips to support you all.
6 Strategies to Manage Your Child’s Back to School Anxiety
1. Notice and Name Feelings & Sensations
Self-awareness is an important part of regulating emotions for children. As you transition back to school, consider how you can help them notice and pay attention to their feelings. Be intentional about checking in and supporting openness. Tap into your child’s personality when encouraging them to share feelings. Perhaps they are more comfortable drawing, rating, or writing down what’s happening with them. Regardless, help them become more aware of internal emotions and physical reactions.
2. Manage Emotions with Acceptance First
As you all return to an active life with an expanding number of people, pay attention to your children’s ability to feel feelings without shame or suppression. After all, they’ve been given some pretty contradictory information over the last couple of years. Openly discuss and accept feelings. Allow them time and space to notice, feel, and accept what is happening within them. In addition, share that accepting life as it happens is important and that that they have you to help them do so.
3. Question Thoughts and Find the Facts Together
Teach your kids to ask themselves questions that highlight whether their own worries are true. When they are upset, help them breathe, slow down and ask “is that thought true?” or “is that thought helping me?”
If they feel very negative or out of control, help them name and chart their feelings in concrete ways. A journal or emotions chart might be helpful. Together, take time to distinguish between feelings and facts. Discuss what bothers them and empower them to actively choose appropriate responses.
4. Get Serious About Self-care
Our children are again going to be expected to accept new normals as we move back into school. There are varying levels of restrictions this fall. For some, their schools will be what they remember. For others, things will look completely different. To cope, teach your children the benefit of carving out time to settle themselves with self-care.
Carve out quiet time. Cuddle or color together. Listen to music or go on a long walk after dinner. Encourage an intentional bedtime routine where they have time to settle themselves with a bath, book, or journal.
5. Set Reasonable Priorities
The truth is the whole world is navigating pandemic recovery and vacillating restrictions as schools reopen in-person full-time. Depending on your circumstances, your concerns will be many and your children will need you to facilitate as much calm and control as possible. This doesn’t mean there won’t be tension and tantrums. It does mean that you should concentrate on giving each other some grace.
Promoting loving kindness as you negotiate new routines and navigate shifting schedules can play a large role in managing your child’s back to school anxiety. Their academic progress is important but so is their need for understanding and emotional validation.
If You Need More School Year Support
Academics and life balance are always challenging for families. Anxiety isn’t unusual. Fortunately, you and your kids have helpers at your disposal, in school and out. Lean on the professionals like teachers and admin staff to make your child’s needs known. Combine your efforts with those of your schools’ guidance counselor and the personalized care of a therapist. It’s perfectly normal if you and your child or children need more support. Given the impact the pandemic had on schooling, it is crucial to promote mental and emotional well-being for everyone.
If you are ready to seek out teen/child counseling, please reach out before the school year is underway. We’re here to support you. Let’s create a healthy back-to-school perspective together.