Author: Rapinder Kaur
How to relieve Back to School Anxiety
It is that time of year again when children (and parents) may be feeling anxious about going back to school. School can be for some children a terrifying place. Not knowing what is expected, seeing new faces, trying to “fit in” with their peers together with the pressures of school work can all add up to be a very stressful experience. Anxiety is described as a state of uneasiness and apprehension and is experienced emotionally and physiologically. Parents may feel the urge to go in and fix the “problem”. But sometimes just being present, available and providing a listening ear along with a big hug is all that the child needs.
How to spot anxiety?
There are always signs; however with so much on their plate parents may misread them or miss them altogether. Children may complain of having a tummy ache, or butterflies or feeling wobbly and they may say they do not want go to school. Teens may complain of a headache and may present more irritable than usual. Other signs to look for are major changes in friendships, style of clothing, music preferences, sleeping and eating habits, attitude and behavior.
Here are 5 simple steps to help your child cope with the anxiety.
1) Make time each day to chat with your child when you are completely free from all other distractions. Your child must feel that you are paying 100% attention to them.
2) Be curious and ASK your child about what is going on. Try not to jump to conclusions. Reassure your child that they are not in trouble but that you care and want to know more about how they are feeling. Sometimes children are reluctant to speak openly to their parents because they fear their reaction and worry about hurting their parents. Your child may not have the words to express their feelings, so you may have to figure out what they might be feeling and label it for them. Fear is strongly associated with anxiety. For example, a child may be anxious and stressed about a test because he is worried about failing because he is fearful of disappointing his parents. Reassuring the child that everything is okay and that you love them not matter what can be very powerful.
3) Help your child cope with their feelings of anxiety by modeling positive self –talk and coping strategies in front of kids i.e. “oh, when mom is feeling nervous about doing a speech in front of strangers I plant my feet firmly on the ground and breathe, and I know in the end everything will be okay”.
4) Keep lines of communication open and resist the urge to fix things. Let your child know that he can always talk to you, no matter what. Talking about things and sharing the worry can help the child feel better. Sometimes it is not necessary to find a solution. However, there are times when you will need to take action.
5) Crying is a great stress reliever; it can ease tension and flush out bad feelings. It can be difficult to see your child cry but allowing a child to express their emotions safely with your soothing, caring and sympathetic presence will not only make them feel better they may be more receptive for talking and sharing.
Most important thing to remember if YOU are feeling anxious or stressed your children will pick up on it. Children come equipped with a radar for these kinds of things! This can exacerbate their anxious feelings, because they look up to you for support and safety. And if you are feeling anxious this will make them feel very uncomfortable but they may not have the words to verbalize. So make sure you find the time to work through your own difficult feelings and make yourself a priority. You need to help yourself before you can help your child.
Know when to get help. Most children and teens experience school anxiety to some extent. A certain amount of anxiety is normal and necessary. However when symptoms of anxiety are persistent and severe, and anxiety causes distress in a child’s life to the point that it negatively affects his or her ability to study, socialize and manage daily tasks, it may be beyond normal range. If you’ve established a good rapport with your child and suddenly doesn’t want to talk, that’s a sign of trouble as well. For more information on how Art Therapy can help reduce anxiety please contact the office via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great September!