After a chaotic and confusing 2020 school year, it’s no surprise that feelings of anxiety are rampant. As you prep your kids to return to the classroom, the following tips can help you manage that back- to- school stress.
Validation is a crucial aspect of reducing anxiety. If your child comes to you saying something like, “I’m scared to go back to school”, fight the urge to respond with “You’ll be fine!” Instead of invalidating and disregarding the emotion they are trying to share, respond with something like, “I can completely understand why you would be scared or nervous. Last year was chaotic. It can be stressful to think about going back.” You can even tie in something like, “I used to get nervous before I went back to school each year too”. Be relatable. Validate your child’s feelings and let them know they’re not alone.
Often, role playing a situation can help reduce a child’s anxiety. Pretend to be the teacher and try to act out what the first day of school will be like. Take cues from your kid to determine whether to make it a serious or silly exercise. When a child knows what to expect, they can focus more on the exciting, positive aspects of going back to school.
Children thrive in routines. It’s important to start implementing them before the school year even starts. You need to establish both a nighttime routine and a morning routine. An article written by Christina Caron for nytimes.com further explains this by saying, “If your children have been going to sleep later than usual during the pandemic and waking up late, start them on a new schedule at least a couple of weeks ahead of school or camp. Build a morning routine that feels comfortable, safe and nurturing. Consider incorporating something calming, like reading a book together.” If your mornings feel rushed and chaotic, your child will not enter school ready to learn. A routine can help avoid the anxiety of the unknown. It can also help your child enter school in a positive headspace.
One of the most important jobs you have as a parent is teaching your child how to deal with their emotions. Self-regulation will benefit you throughout the entirety of your life. Help your child identify when they’re feeling negative emotions. Teach them healthy coping mechanisms they can adopt when their feelings become overwhelming.
Lastly, keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. Let them know they can come to you if they’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or scared. It’s also a good idea to communicate openly with your child’s teacher. Keep them informed with where your child is at mentally and emotionally. Work with them to make sure your child has the best experience possible.
Going back to school this year requires a bit of bravery. Use these tips to help your child through their anxiety.