Around 3 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 are diagnosed with anxiety. While back to school jitters is completely normal, some children have a harder time coping with the return to school. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be even harder for children.
How can you help your child deal with back to school anxiety? There are some things you can do to help your child deal with going to school in a healthy way.
No matter your child’s age, the first day of school can cause anxiety. One of the best ways you can help is to help create a drop-off routine. You want the drop-off to be consistent and short.
You should expect there may be crying, but do not come back after saying goodbye because that can make the transition even harder.
If your child is younger, you can get a transition object or a brave toy for your child to keep in their backpack. Make sure it is something small and your child understands they should keep it in their backpack, so it is not a distraction.
You were a kid once, too. Talk to your children about your memories and experiences. Tell your children stories about your friends, your favorite teacher, and your other memories. Be sure to stay positive and mention fun things at the school like the library, playground, and art projects.
A great way to start dealing with anxiety is to encourage your kids to do things like playing outside, hanging out with friends, or other activities they enjoy. Being outside can help people feel more relaxed and help combat anxious feelings. Make sure they are having fun and doing something that relaxes them, so don’t force friends that they don’t get along with to avoid fighting.
Talk to your kids about how they feel about going to school. Listen and watch for things like sleeping troubles, stomachaches, headaches, crankiness, excessive concerns, and lots of “what if” questioning. If you see these concerns aren’t alleviated when discussing logical explanations, you may want to talk to your child’s doctor about anxiety treatment.
While distraction doesn’t cure anxiety, it can help diminish intense feelings and help children think more clearly. If your child feels anxious, it’s ok to find something to distract them like reading a funny book or watching an educational or engaging program. It may help your child feel calmer for the time being and then return to talking about school in a better state of mind.
No matter if your child goes to public or private school, it’s important to have a routine planned for the first week of school. Be open and discuss with your child what the first week will look like. Watch for any stress or anxiety your child may experience in those first few days.
It’s also a great idea to practice this routine ahead of time, so the first day isn’t a mad rush to get to school or get on the bus in time. The change in routine can be tough on children—and parents too! The more you practice and talk about this routine will make your child feel ready and prepared, so don’t be afraid to start early and practice dry runs!
The last thing your child needs is to run late on the first day. Make sure you get ready as much as possible the night before. This includes laying out clothing, packing lunches, and getting backpacks ready.
Set your alarm plenty early, so you have too much time. This way you can also take the first day of school pictures without feeling rushed. Having to run out the door can cause anxiety to rise and that does not set a good tone for the day.
If your child is transitioning to a new school, you may want to visit the school ahead of time. Typically, schools have a meet and greet each year so students can bring their school supplies and meet their teacher.
Even if your child is in the same school, it can help your child by taking them to their new classroom and meeting their new teacher. You want to stir up some enthusiasm for the new school year.
One of the best things you can do when helping your child with anxiety is to tell them it’s okay to feel nervous. Talk to them about their feelings and let them know their feelings are okay and normal.
Answer any of their questions calmly. They may have questions about getting sick and the pandemic, so address things like washing hands, wearing masks, and keeping distance from other students.
You can also create a visual to help your child manage anxiety. For younger children, a “Brave Chart” lets them earn stickers or points when they manage their anxiety. You can use this as a reward system, so they can see their progress or work toward a goal for a prize or toy.
It’s important to listen to your child and talk about their anxiety. Back to school anxiety is normal, but if you see your child is really struggling, you should contact their doctor.
Are you looking for school options for your child? If you feel your child needs more attention, we invite you to check out Pear Tree Elementary. We offer a hands-on, student-focused approach to help your child learn in small classes.
Want to learn more about schooling options? Contact us today and schedule a visit. We can’t wait to meet you and your child.