Say Goodbye To Back To School Anxiety
Whether returning after holiday breaks, summer break, or just a weekend, returning to school is usually difficult for children who struggle with anxiety.
Returning to school after a break can bring about some complaining and resistance for many children. But for an anxious child, it may trigger worried thoughts, feelings of fear, or panic symptoms (ex: stomachache, nausea, headache, etc.).
Home is often an anxious child’s “safe bubble.” Even if it’s not always positive, home is usually predictable. If the home is also peaceful, it may be even harder to leave after settling into the comfort of home.
School is less predictable, full of people, and often loud. It is full of expectations for academic performance, classroom participation, and social interaction. In addition, disruption to their routine, fear of not knowing what to expect, and the anxiety of being around many kids can all contribute to overwhelming apprehension. Kids with anxiety may be easily overwhelmed in these situations.
But, returning to school is inevitable. You can do some things to help prepare your child, minimize their anxiety and make their transition as smooth as possible. Here are three tips to help make the transition easier.
PREPARE AND ORGANIZE: Encourage your child to complete homework early in the break. Avoid leaving it until the evening before returning to school. Lay out clothes, load bookbag, and pack lunch the day before. Discuss the transportation plan ahead of time to avoid worries or confusion. Plan to leave early to avoid rushing.
RETURN TO A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE: Keep sleep schedules and bedtime/morning routines as consistent as possible during breaks from school, especially on weekends. After longer breaks, when bedtimes and wake times have been flexible, start working on reestablishing boundaries and expectations a few days before the return to school.
TALK AND LISTEN: Start talking about the return to school a few days before, with comments like, “In a couple of days, you get to go back to school to see your friends and teachers!” Talk about the positive aspects of returning to school.
Listen to and validate your child’s thoughts and feelings (ex: “I know it’s hard and you feel nervous”), but also let them know you believe in their ability to overcome anxiety (ex: “I know you can be brave and do this”).
Together, practice coping skills they can use to calm anxious thoughts and feelings during their transition (ex: deep breathing, mindfulness, positive self-talk). You can help make the transition to a new situation a little easier by taking some time to practice these coping skills. In addition, practicing the coping skills can help make the process more automatic, which makes it easier to use when your child is in distress.
Explain to your child that the best way to feel comfortable at school is to return and get used to it again. The first day back is always the hardest, but with consistent attendance, every day it gets easier!
If you’re finding that your child is struggling to return to school or just needs a little extra support, please call our child therapist, Molly Selby, MSW, LCSW. She would be more than happy to help!
Molly has worked with many children who have struggled with this issue and can provide concrete tips on making the transition back to school as smooth as possible.
Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?
Molly Selby, MSW, LCSW
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4530 N Oakland Ave
Whitefish Bay, WI 53211