7 Steps to Reduce Back to School Anxiety
It's about that time of year when the store shelves are filled with spiral bound notebooks and backpacks. When we start to crave the smell of the fall air, and look forward to apple picking and hayrides. It is time to get ready to go back to school. Even though the transition from summer to fall is a big one, it does not have to be a stressful time. In fact, with a little preparation it can be a
time to look forward to for parents, and children alike.
1. Concentrate on the positive – Talk about the friends they will see, and the classes they enjoy. Set up a couple of outings with schoolmates they haven't seen in a while. Having a friend in the class can make the entire room seem more familiar. Also having a social network, even a small one, helps prevent bullying.
2. Validate – Let's be realistic, school isn't everyone's favorite pastime. There is homework, deadlines, and people they are forced to spend a great deal of time with that they may not like. Listen if your child complains. Sometimes they want your advice, other times they just want to vent. My favorite open ended question is, “How can I help?” This question helps you get an idea of which one your child needs in that moment. Follow their lead.
3. Get prepared – Help your child get excited about fall by involving them in buying school supplies, uniforms, or back to school clothes. Write out the weekly schedule and post it somewhere everyone can see it. Read any orientation materials you get with them to make sure everyone is on the same page.
4. Check out after school care If your child is going to a new after school care make sure to give them a tour. Do a run through of when and how they are going to get there, and when they should expect you to pick them up. Children that have separation anxiety often are helped with the use of a transitional object, Something that will remind them you are there.
Some ideas include a picture of the two of you, a special key chain on their book bag, or a note in their lunch.
5. Utilize a communication system – If your child will be home alone after school, especially if it is their first time, start a communication system now to help keep them on track. This can be a dry erase board with a short “todo” list, an afternoon text message, a call, or a post it note. Whatever it is it should be written, short, and updated daily. Lists that don't change often end up forgotten about. Something that shows caring, and is updated daily is
more likely to get attention.
6. Introduce the new schedule early– About a week before school starts begin having meals at approximately the same time they will be eaten during school. Get them involved by having them prepare breakfast, and help put together lunches. Also , set a regular wake up time. The bedtime will follow, especially if you throw a little outdoor exercise into the routine.
7. Regulate screen time Screen time has been linked to symptoms of depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and lack of concentration. Now is the time to get kids back down to the recommended two hours or less of screen time per day. Worried they will be bored? Plan an end of summer bucket list , and get in some quality family time. Concentrating on what they can do can help ease the transition, and will make back to school fun for the whole
If you are concerned that your child's anxiety is more than just back to school jitters you can call Lamplight Counseling Services LLC at 330-331-5800. Our counselors and therapist are here to help you and your child develop the coping and communication skills needed for a successful school year.