After spending 3 months with their toes in the sand, running through the sprinkler, and long afternoons soaking up the sunshine, your child may seem hesitant to return back to school.
While nervousness is normal, as parents, we always want to set our children up for success as best we can.
Some kids experience higher rates of anxiety than others during back-to-school season, so it’s important to be proactive to ‘soften the blow’ when September rolls around.
Jitters around a bully from last year or the shock of entering a new classroom with a new teacher and new friends may make your little one panic before they ever step foot into a school.
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Let’s talk about a few ways to help your child's transition go just a little bit smoother.
What Are The Most Common Reasons My Child May Be Experiencing ‘Back To School Anxiety?
Think back to when you were younger - even decades ago. You likely had some level of uneasiness when it came to school. Whether it was those pesky spelling tests you never felt quite prepared for or the mile run you dreaded every year.
Maybe you had friendship quarrels that left your stomach in knots, knowing you had to face them in the halls the next day. Whatever the reason may be, imagine all of those fears but worse.
Today's kids face not only all the ‘normal’ coming-of-age obstacles such as puberty and academics, but they also have the added pressure of social media to cloud up their personal lives in a way the world has never seen before.
To help your child sort through their various emotions, it’s imperative to understand where they’re coming from in the first place. Let’s talk about a few of the most common reasons your child may be experiencing back-to-school stress.
Impaired Social Skills:
After likely spending a year (or more) of their critical development in lockdown, they may be experiencing lower social skills than children who did not have to deal with a global pandemic right as they entered kindergarten. While online learning is a lifesaver, children need that exposure to others to learn fundamental social interactions. This disruption may be causing your child to feel unequipped when talking or playing with others.
Of course, any child that has been bullied will feel anxious about returning to the environment they were harassed in the first place. Adults also experience this when they feel stress or tension whenever they head off to work with a bully boss.
Exploring friendships and navigating relationships is a normal part of your child's school-age experience however it doesn’t make the fights, breakups, or challenges any easier. Fallouts with friends or the pain of experiencing the first heartbreak can make even the thought of returning to school dreadful.
Kids with learning disorders, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, may feel an elaborate amount of stress and anxiety when thinking about their return to school. The confusion and frustration that come with not understanding material can not only cause mental health problems but significantly damage their self-esteem.
4 Back To School Mental Health Tips:
School offers a unique experience for your child to not only strengthen their academic skills but also provide a platform for them to grow and shape into who they will eventually become. Let’s discuss a few ways you can help ease your child's mental health as they head back to school in the fall.
Establish and Rehearse a Morning Routine:
Your child may know the loose guidelines of their school morning routine, but they can easily forget them over the summer. Establish a morning routine weeks beforehand and practice it with your child to prepare them for what's to come. Sometimes the shock of a harsh transition - from sleeping in casually to suddenly having a morning schedule - can send your child into unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Conduct a School Walk-Through:
If your child is feeling particularly anxious about getting lost or navigating the halls of the school, contact the office to determine whether or not a walk-through is possible. Teachers and staff are often on-site weeks to months beforehand cleaning, sanitizing, and setting up for fall. This can help ease any queasiness they may feel about finding their class, locker, or bathrooms.
Keep Communication Open:
One of the simplest ways to connect with your child's anxiety surrounding the school is to simply talk about it. Ask them if there's anything they’re worried about this year or anything they feel underprepared for. Discuss any possible scenarios they may be stressed about and ways to manage them if they arise. This can help them get their fears off their chest and make them feel more prepared to handle those challenges, should they occur.
Spot The Signs:
Feeling first-day jitters is to be expected. However, actual school anxiety looks a bit different. While many symptoms overlap, your child may be experiencing distressing anxiety if they:
● Struggle to pay attention
● Have a hard time sitting still
● Experience heightened clinginess in the weeks leading up to school
● Becoming sick or feeling sick more often
● Throw tantrums or experience other new behavioral problems
● Freeze up when asked to answer questions in class
● Fail to turn in homework
● Have a difficult time with schoolwork
● Show physical signs such as nausea, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping, or frequent headaches
Navigating School Anxiety Can Be Tough
If you feel navigating through school anxiety is challenging for you, keep in mind it’s much harder for your child.
School anxiety and anxiety, in general, are quite normal in kids. Especially in a world still recovering from a pandemic that uprooted all we once knew to be “normal.”
If your child is experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, or tension surrounding their return back to school this fall, just know you’re not alone.
Support is there and available for you and your little one. Therapists, mental health professionals, school administrators, and guidance counselors can all be a fantastic resource if you feel as though your child needs a little extra help in overcoming their fears.
Set an example for your child when navigating tricky situations - they may just remember it for years to come. Looking for resources to help your child navigate the school year? Contact us today to learn about our programs.