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Back-to-School Anxiety: 5 Ways to Help Your Child to be Calm and Confident for Their First Day

Heart thumping, palms sweaty, jaw clenched - these are only some of the physical manifestations of my back-to-school anxiety that I experienced as a child.

I remember feeling so scared and nervous about going back with different components of returning making me feel like a nervous-wreck. I was nervous about my new teacher - would he/she like me - would I like them? I was nervous about the people in my class - would any of them want to be friends with me? I was nervous about the grades I would receive that year - would it be enough to make my parents and teacher proud? Point is, there were endless uncertainties that filled me with worry.

I didn’t understand how a lot of the expectations I had on myself like my grades weren’t the be-all and end-all of what my teacher and parents cared about. Nonetheless it was very human for me to feel the way I felt. The good news with all of this is that there’s help that we can give to our kids so that they’re not so overwhelmed about school.

In this article, I’ll be sharing with you, 5 ways to help your child be calm and confident for their first day of school. This is something I wish an adult in my life had guided me through when I was younger:

1. Have a conversation about how they’re feeling. Ask them how they’re feeling about school and validate that it’s ok to be feeling that way. Remind them that you love them and will always be there for them when they want to talk.

2. Listen to them. Along with talking, listening to your child can help you understand how you can help them. Why are they anxious about going back to school? Is it because they’re afraid of what their teachers and friends will think of them? Is it because they’re afraid they’ll miss you too much? These reasons are very different and when you get to the core of why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling you’ll more easily be able to reassure them in a more specific and particular way. For example, if they’re worried about being away from you for a long period of time, you can reassure them that you wish you were able to spend more time with them but that there are reasons why they need to go to school and why you have to be at home or at work.

3. Share your experience of when you were a child. I remember how much I enjoyed hearing stories of when my parents were my age and how they managed different situations like when friends turned against them. Having another perspective that’s so personal to your children will help them organize their thoughts and feelings. This also helps them feel assured that you, as a parent, understand them.

4. Be empathetic. Be ready for them to act out because of their anxiety in going back to school. This doesn’t mean you let them say and do whatever they want, but being particularly more gentle towards them during this time will help them see that you understand and care for them. You can kindly let them know that you understand that going back to school is making them feel uneasy but that that doesn’t excuse them from doing whatever they want.

5. Help them prepare. Find a new backpack and school supplies to get them excited about returning. Help them transition by doing a fun countdown - this hypes up the return to school while also helping them know when to expect that they would be going back. Visiting the school prior to the start date and getting connected to a few of their classmates can also help!

Finding out ways to support your child in their transition back to school is already a great first step. If you’re still finding it challenging to calm and build confidence in your child while going to school, reach out to us via phone or email and we’d love to set an appointment with you to help in any way we can!

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