By Leticia Medina
The fall brings about the end of summer, and back to school for kids. While most parents enjoy sending their kids back to school, children aren’t always as happy about the prospect. In the midst of school shopping and attending orientations, some children feel pressures and anxieties when thinking about returning to the classroom.
Helping our kids deal with these anxieties will not only alleviate their stress, but also the stress parents feel. Jill Anderson, a licensed marriage and family therapist and counselor at Hillsides Education Center, provides some advice for how to deal with back-to-school jitters:
- Take your child’s emotional temperature
Check in with your child to see how he or she feels about starting school. What is she excited about? Who is he looking forward to seeing? Does he have any concerns about school? Be sure to listen carefully to your child and validate his or her feelings.
- Normalize your child’s feelings of anxiety
Let your child know that it’s okay to feel a little nervous before starting something new. Most people feel this way. It can be helpful to tell a personal story about your own anxiety (starting a new school or new job, jitters before a big game, etc.) and explain how you met the challenge. Provide reassurance that your child is capable of being successful with a new situation too.
- Plan a school visit
If school hasn’t started yet, try to visit your child’s school together beforehand. Check out the classroom, stop by your child’s locker, visit the playground or outdoor spaces and note where the restrooms are located. This will familiarize your child with their new surroundings and may help alleviate anticipatory anxiety.
- Set a routine
Kids respond well to structure and a routine can help combat stress. You can provide a sense of security for your child by setting up some ground rules and developing a daily routine for homework, mealtime/snacks, media use, bedtime, etc.
- Get help, if needed
Back-to-school anxiety usually subsides after a few weeks as children become more comfortable with school. If your child continues to appear anxious about going to school or frequently attempts to avoid school altogether (physical complaints are common), please seek the help of a counseling professional.
Leticia Medina is a communications associate at Hillsides and has a bachelor’s degree in child development. Her daughter, Madelynn, 11, is entering the sixth grade and starts school on Monday.