In my private practice, I see a lot of kiddos who get pretty anxious as school approaches. Some children may be starting school for the first time, others are simply returning, some are transitioning in some way–to a school with a different physical location or to middle or high school. In any case, here are six ways to ease your child’s anxiety at this time of year.
1.) Get them comfortable with the setting.
If your school offers it, take advantage of opportunities to tour the building or the classroom. Drive by the school while you’re out running errands, and point it out to your child. If you live in the neighborhood, take walks to the school, or play on the playground if it’s appropriate. Doing some of these things will promote a sense of recognition and familiarity when it’s time for your child to start spending time at his or her school.
2.) Validate the feeling…
We all want to feel heard and understood, and “we” includes children. Let your child know that you understand he is feeling scared or nervous. Talk with him about what it is that makes him feel that way; he may not even really know. You might talk about times when you’ve felt nervous or scared, either as a grown-up or as a child. When you do this, you’re normalizing and validating his feelings.
3.) …but let your child know YOU know she can do it.
Children take their cues from us as parents and grown-ups, and this is especially true for children who experience anxiety. If you are anxious about your child’s ability to cope with school, she will absolutely pick up on that and doubt her own ability to cope. Validate her feelings, as above, and then let her know that you know she will have a great day even if she feels a little nervous. Let her know that you have confidence in her ability to relax, do the work, and make new friends. Being brave is being afraid and doing it anyway. Let her know that you’ve seen how brave she is.
4.) Help your child address his “what if’s”.
If anxiety had a t-shirt, it would say “what if.” Your child’s what if’s about school might include the following: what if I don’t know anyone? what if no one will play with me? what if the teacher is mean? what if I don’t know the answers? Help your child challenge these worries directly. For example, remind him that school is about learning the answers, not knowing them already. Remind him of successes he has had in the past with learning new things, or with making new friends. I remind my young clients that, for the most part, they have not ALWAYS known the friends they know now. At one time, their current friends were actually strangers who became friends, and that that can happen again and again. And in fact, most kids haven’t actually had a mean teacher despite their fear. Remind them of that!
Practice your morning routine before it happens. Put yourselves in training by timing out how long it will take to get ready in the morning so that you’re not in a rush. Rushing out the door doesn’t usually set a good tone for the day, especially for anxious kids, so you may have to add 15 minutes to your routine. Practice going to bed and waking up on time at least a week in advance of the start of school.
6.) Be the spin doctor.
Tell stories about some of the fun things you remember about going to school when you were your child’s age. Remind them of times when they tried something new and ended up really liking it (the neighborhood park and the swimming pool were once novel places). Frame your child’s school experience as an adventure, because after all, it is!
Vanessa also recently gave us some great tips on how to cure summer boredom.
And now, Vanessa would like to help ease those back to school jitters even MORE by offering one lucky reader a $25 gift card to Target for some school supplies (and maybe a latte for mom)! Here are the different ways you can enter – use the comments below to let us know which of the following entry options you did and you will automatically be entered to win! (You receive an entry for each of the following and may receive up to THREE entries!)
Be sure to enter a SEPARATE comment below for each method of entry mentioned below (one comment for Facebook, one comment for Snap’s Stories, etc.). And if you already do any of those things, be sure to comment to let us know!Giveaway ends at noon on Friday, August 7th. Winner will be chosen randomly and will be announced via reply to comment (email). You will have 24 hours to claim your prize! Good luck, everyone!
To learn more from Vanessa and ways to help children learn about and manage their feelings, check out Snap’s Stories About Feelings!
Vanessa Whalen, LSCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-founder of Snappy Kids, LLC, along with her husband John Harrison. Snappy Kids makes therapeutic mobile apps for kids to help them learn about and manage their feelings. The company’s latest app, Snap’s Stories About Feelings, is available for $2.99 on the iTunes App Store and on Google Play. The app is intended for kids ages 4-10 and contains two stories (about anger and worry) with accompanying activities. No reading is required. More stories will be available for purchase in the fall. For more information about SnappyKids, or to sign up for our newsletter, visit http://snappykids.cc.
Disclosure: Wichita Moms Blog partnered with Snappy Kids, LLC for this sponsored post. That said, all products and services listed here are those that we have tested personally, stand behind and are excited to bring this wonderful community of moms.