Strategies parents can implement to manage school anxiety
Times of transition or change can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for many children, especially the transition from the ever-anticipated summer break to school in September. In the days leading up to the first day of school, your child may become irritable, withdrawn and engage in frequent tantrums. Additionally, they may present with symptoms such as headaches or unsettled stomachs. Many children worry about their new teacher, being accepted by their peers, understanding the material presented in class, and being separated from their parents for an extended period of time. Despite the fact that each individual child will handle back-to-school differently, there are strategies parents can implement in order to smoothen the transition. As such, the following are tactics that can help to ease this back-to-school anxiety.
A week before school starts
- Establish, or re-establish, school routines. Have your child go to sleep and wake up at the same times they will when the school year starts.
- Brainstorm school supplies and create a list with your child. Set aside time to go and get the supplies together. Give your child choices along the way.
- Arrange play dates with future classmates to forge friendships and increase familiarity.
A few days before school starts
- Visit the school and tour the property.
- Meet the teacher. Inform your child’s teacher regarding their anxiety so that they can aid with the transition.
- Go over the bus route with your child if they will be taking it to and from school.
The first day of school
The night before:
- Help your child to pick out an outfit of their choice.
- Pack the child’s lunch and backpack, with their help. Provide a lunch that is both nutritious and made up of foods that they enjoy.
- Ensure your child gets enough sleep.
- Do not let your child stay home. This will reinforce the negative feelings associated with school.
- Redirect your child’s thinking away from the negatives and toward the positives. Praise positive behaviour.
- Send your child to school with a comforting item. For example, a note or a picture in their lunch box.
- Have your child attend the first few days of school with a familiar friend as a buffer.
Throughout the school year
- Remain calm and encouraging, even if the first few days are tough for your child.
- Role play with your child so that they feel equipped with strategies to handle situations that may arise. For example, an encounter with a bully or how to approach the teacher when they need help.
- When your child has a problem, plan and problem solve. Instead of repeatedly telling the child that it will be fine, brainstorm strategies to cope or ways to resolve the issue. Sometimes reassurance is not enough.
- Keep school materials in consistent locations.
- Arrange ongoing play dates with classmates to solidify friendships.
- Volunteer in the classroom. Volunteering links school to home life and also provides a direct link to forming relationships with your child’s teachers and classmates.
As a parent, it may feel as though you are subjecting your child to angst and discomfort by sending them to school, but it is crucial to remain cognizant of the essentiality behind receiving an education. Additionally, it is important not to over-interpret the behaviours that your child may display. Commonly, implementing a few strategies will be enough to resolve the issue. With your unconditional support, encouragement and care, children can thrive within the school setting. Children are incredibly resilient and sometimes all it takes is just a little bit of time to re-adjust.
- Do time changes, vacations and other changes affect your child’s behaviour?
- ‘5 tips for a happy transitions in the new year!‘
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