Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alleviating Back to School Anxieties

by Carol Grinage, volunteer contributor

It’s that time of year again when parents are excited because their children are returning to school; however, despite the relief parents may feel now that summer is over, children may not feel the same relief. Instead, children may feel anxiety.

For some children, returning to school is filled with the excitement of reuniting with friends from the previous school year and meeting new teachers. For other children, however, back to school causes a host of concerns.

The concerns that a child may experience can depend on the child’s age. Younger children or children attending school for the first time may experience concerns about being separated from a parent or another caregiver. Adolescent worries may involve social anxieties such as will they fit in and will they have the “right” clothes.

Concerns a child may have are:
  • Who will be my new teacher?
  • Will any of my friends be in my class?
  • Will I fit in?
  • Are my clothes okay?
  • Will the other children be mean?

One of the best ways to alleviate or reduce some of these concerns is through preparation:

  1. Make sure your child has the correct supplies for school. To do this, contact the school and/or the teacher to receive a supply list. Some schools will have prepared packets that they sell directly to parents, or they can provide a preferred store to purchase supplies. 
  2. Take your child shopping for back-to-school clothes. Although you may be tempted to want to choose what your child wears for the first day of school, don’t. Let your child choose his/her own clothes. It is not necessary to purchase an entire wardrobe for back-to-school. For most children, the key clothing item is what they wear the first day of school. 
  3. Discuss fears that your child may have. Fears are normal, and by addressing these fears, your child knows that back-to-school anxiety is something many children experience. 
  4. Discuss the “what ifs.” Sometimes children are afraid of what could happen, such as what if I don’t like my teacher or what if my friends no longer like me. Discuss these issues and make a plan because a plan gives the child some semblance of control if something feared does occur. For example, if a child fear getting lost and not being able to find the bathroom, take the child to school and walk around and locate the bathrooms and the classroom.
  5. Visit the school, meet the teacher, and plan the route to school. Make the school routine familiar so that when the first day of school rolls around, the routine will be familiar and not anxiety producing.
  6. Focus on the positive aspect of returning to school. Ask your child to name three things that they look forward to with the return to school.
  7. Prepare the night before. When the first day of school arrives, make sure that clothes and lunches and snacks are ready the night before. Make sure your child goes to bed early, eats a good breakfast and arrives early to school. Lastly, if possible, arrange for your child to go to school with a friend because there is strength in numbers.

As you help your child deal with back-to-school anxiety, remember that this anxiety is only temporary, and that within a few weeks, everyone will be back to the school year routine.  Good luck!

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