How to help your child with ‘Back to School’ Anxiety
Returning to full time education, be it school, college, or University, is always a time of mixed emotions. This year, children and teens have had to return to, and adjust to, the ‘New Normal’ and with this comes ‘New Concerns, Worries and Anxiety.’ However it isn’t just the younger generation that have these feelings. As caregivers our emotions are going to be all over the place as we go from protecting our children 24/7, to sending them off into the ‘unknown,’ as it were, with this uncertainty continuing for the foreseeable future.
So how do we support our children and ourselves as we continually adjust to this new and unusual Academic Year? The most important thing you can do for your children is to be as honest as you can without causing them more anxiety, and not let your worries pass onto them. Tell them that you do not have all the answers, neither do the teachers, but that everyone is learning as they go and that all the changes are to ensure their safety and not to cause them misery.
As well as being honest with them, make sure that they are HEARD, this means REALLY listening to them and acknowledging their thoughts, feelings and emotions. Not only does this allow you to find out what their main worries are, but this allows them to express themselves and help them to feel safe and valued.
Another way to try to reduce the anxiety related to adjusting to school changes is to explain to your child what the new routine will be like at school. Many schools will continue to provide letters updating you of the changes. Talk these through with them and show them any accompanying photos and videos, as this will prepare them for any sudden shifts to what they have already adjusted to. Ask your child how they are feeling after doing this, you may find that for some children this will turn their anxiety and worry into excitement as they adapt. For others though, this may provoke further anxiety or worry, and it is important to listen to these so as you can work through and reassure your child as much as possible.
As your child adjusts to new school life and new routines, it helps to re-establish a home routine, not only does this provide security for your child, but it will help with your own mental health. Knowing what is happening, and when, will ease a lot of anxiety as we readjust to the new and somewhat different life that we once knew. Do not put a load of pressure on yourself to get things right all the time. Allowing our children to see us all adjusting and making mistakes will let them know that we too are human and that making mistakes is OK. We learn from them we do not give up, and this demonstrates the growth mind-set of always learning and building up perseverance and resilience.
If your child cannot explain to you properly what or how they are feeling, then you could try these ideas instead.
- Ask them to draw a picture to illustrate how they are feeling and then talk through it, taking note of the colours and shapes they used;
- You could also ask them to tell a story using a favourite toy or character, as they often find it easy to place feelings onto these;
- If your child enjoys playing with Lego, then ask them to build something which shows how they feel;
- Alternatively, you could ask them to use emojis to express how they are feeling.
These are just a few ideas, but the main point is to find a way in which to open a conversation whereby your child can fully express themselves in any way that they feel the most comfortable.
If your child is anxious to the point of being unable to control how they are feeling, get them to do these exercises.
- Breathing:- Teach them how to focus on their breathing by taking three long deep breaths – this signals calmness to the brain.
- Bubbles:- Not only does blowing bubbles promote slower breathing, but children can also imagine their negative feelings are in the bubbles and pop them, making them disappear.
- Guided meditation:- You Tube has many child friendly meditations that are only 10 minutes in duration and usually use a ‘magical’ story to allow children to use their imagination and fully relax in a fun way. This normally works best before bed as it enables them to get into a state of calm and drift into a peaceful sleep. It is highly recommended to make this part of their bedtime routine!
Finally, in all of this you must allow time for YOU!! Yes, you heard correctly. After months of juggling tasks and dealing with all sorts of issues whilst remaining a rock for the family, you must allow time for Self-Care. This could be a trip to the hairdressers, a long hot bath or an hour snuggled up on the sofa with your favourite book – you have to allow time for yourself to recharge, readjust and refill your own cup so as you are able to continue being strong for the rest of the family. So, do not feel guilty for spending time on yourself because you are important too!
If you are struggling either with your own mental health or with your child’s anxiety or other behaviours then PLEASE reach out for support. You are not alone and there are many people, organisations and charities that are able to help and assist you. Please feel free to connect with me to talk through the current coaching programmes available for your children.
I hope this has been helpful and will aid both you and your children in adjusting to the ‘new look world.’ Wishing you and your family peace, health, and happiness!
True You Kids Life Studio – Surrey, England