07 Sep Back to School: 5 Tips for Anticipation without Anxiety
Have your kids been more argumentative lately? Are they snapping at you for (seemingly) no reason? You are not alone. Kids are also anticipating going back to school, but with more school anxiety than school elation.
“Woe is me, all summer I was happy and free. Save my soul, the board of education took away my parole.”* These aren’t just the cheesy lyrics from a late ’70s musical, but the very real feeling of dread for millions of students.
While parents might be cheering about the end of summer, school anxiety is very real and very serious. Whether your kids are entering school for the first time, returning veterans, or graduating to a new building, there are steps you can take to help lessen the fear, anxiety, and worry that lurks in the minds of your kids and teens.
Talk to your kids about school.
What to they think about school? Do they have reasonable expectations? Have they heard rumors about what may happen? Sometimes all it takes is an adult to dispel the “what ifs” that kids get in their heads and be reassured that most likely they will not be shoved in a locker, or given a “swirly” (flushed down the toilet).
Let your kids know about your experiences at school.
This will normalize the experience for them. Tell the good, the funny, the shocking. The purpose is to put them at ease.
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Make sure they are ready and confident for the first day. Ensure they have all the needed supplies (plus some extras for when the run out) before they walk into the building. Does everything fit in their backpack? Do their shoes fit? Take a tour of a new school or take a peak into the classroom (if allowed). You can ensure that your child feels comfortable knowing where the office is, how to find the bathrooms, etc. Check out the gym and the playground. This is especially helpful for preschoolers who may have some separation anxiety.
Middle school tip:
Is your kid changing for gym for the first time? Tell them what to expect and practice at your community gym or pool change room. Using a locker for the first time? Make sure your teen knows how to use a combo lock.
Check in after the first day.
Be prepared to head back to the store as soon as possible! It never fails- you probably have either forgotten something or the teacher has added something that they will need for the next day. Ugh! We feel your pain. Talk about what may not have gone as well as they would have liked and do some problem solving to see how your kid can do better the next day.
Ask for help!
Your school is there to educate your child and if there is a problem, the staff members need to know as quickly as possible. Most public schools have social workers who can help with problems with social struggles and separation/school anxiety. Seeking help early can prevent problems from escalating later.
Remember, your child’s early school encounters can influence their entire education experience. These simple steps will help get your kids back to school with success!
*song lyrics from “Back to School, Again” (Grease, 1978).
Have some more great tips? Please let me know! Comment below.
Lisa Marie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who earned her both her Master of Social Work and Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since 2005, Lisa Marie has been working with children, teens, parents, and families in schools, hospitals, and community counseling centers. She works with kids, teens, and adults, specializing in anxiety (whether due to every day stressors or trauma), mood disorders, social and behavioral issues, coping skills deficiencies, and school-related issues. Lisa Marie uses a mix of cognitive-behavioral, talk, and play (for the younger kids) therapy. She strongly believes that focusing on positive and healthy interactions is the bedrock of improving disruptive and unhelpful behaviors and thoughts. She helps empower families by teaching them strategies on how to: become attuned to their struggling child’s emotions, improve communication skills, and develop routines to increase success at home and school. Lisa Marie lives in Chicago and spends her free time enjoying cultural activities and walking and biking the Lake Shore path.