The carefree days of summer are coming to an end, and the school year is about to begin. The responsibility of homework–lots and lots of homework–will resume. The busy schedule of organized, after-school activities will return. While your child may groan and protest the annual first day of school, sometimes back-to-school anxiety is more than simply a reluctance to return to the work and obligations of a new school year.
For many children, real anxiety can manifest, which is often detrimental to the way they perceive school. Some children may be afraid to meet their new teacher, make new friends, or perhaps go to a new school.
For younger children, this might be the first time they will be separated from their parents for eight hours a day. Older children might prematurely experience stress about all the work that they will need to get done.
Some students may worry about whether they have everything they need to make their school year successful. Others might worry about making the team or getting into the college of their choice. And many will put pressure on themselves to get top grades.
Luckily, there are ways you can help your children can manage this anxiety and better enjoy their time in school.
Get to Know Your Child’s School
When a child is beginning a new school, a new class, or simply starting school in general, there is a lot for that child to worry about. Will the teacher like him? Will she have any friends? How will he manage being away from his parents?
One of the many ways you can ease your child’s fears is to take him to visit the school before the beginning of the school year. Perhaps you can attend an open house if the school hosts one before school starts. This will allow you and your child to meet the teachers and for the teacher to meet your child.
Attending an open house will also allow your child to meet her future classmates in a less formal setting. Meeting the teacher and other students in this way can help calm your child’s back-to-school anxiety and ease the transition from the relaxed summer to the more structured school environment.
Create a Routine
One of the many ways a child may feel anxious about going back to school is the amount of responsibility that will be placed on him at the start of the year. Unfortunately for many students, the work begins the second they walk through the doors. Homework is assigned on the first day, and students are thrown directly into the work.
With the onslaught of homework assignments, your child may feel overwhelmed by schoolwork and after-school activities. The best way to help your student ease the anxiety and stress is to create a routine.
Having a set routine will allow your student to better manage her time and know when something needs to be done. For a younger student, having a routine will help him develop sustainable time management habits that will prove beneficial in later years.
Make sure you include your child in the development of her routine. It is her routine, and following a routine that someone else has set for her can make her feel even more overwhelmed. It may also help to have your younger student draw his routine on paper (or use stickers). Having visual cues can make the routine easier to follow.
Emphasize Progress Over Perfection
It is no secret that the pressure placed on students these days is higher than it has been in the past. With a greater emphasis on higher education, students can feel the pressure at an early age to make it into college. And some parents have unknowingly contributed to that stress.
As a parent, you want the best for your child, and you will do just about anything to ensure their success. Sometimes parents can get caught up in the challenge to raise the perfect, successful child. It is easy to forget that their child is supposed to be working to the best of his ability, not at an unrealistic level they think he should be.
When sending your child back to school, it is important to remember that society already places enough stress on your child. She doesn’t need even more stress from you. Instead of asking her how she scored on that dreaded math test, ask her what she learned in biology. Let your kid be a kid and discover the joys of learning.
Recognize the Signs of Back-to-School Anxiety
Going back to school can present many challenges. It’s important to be able to recognize when your child is struggling. Prepare for the everyday school drama, such as fights with friends or teachers, a bad grade, or not making the team.
It is easy for children to hide those disappointments. Some–especially older children–may choose not to share the bad news with their parents. You are not there at the school with your children, and they may not always tell you when something is bothering them.
However, you know your child better than anyone, and you can be a big help to them in dealing with their school dramas, no matter how lame they say you are. Your child may become withdrawn, lash out, or have a hard time managing his actions. Recognizing the signs that something is going on with your child at school can be the first step. Take the time to let your child know that she can come to you for anything, and empathize with her.
Sometimes, the transition to school and the resulting stress can be overwhelming. As parents, we may not be able to help in the most effective way or in a way that will benefit our child. When we reach this stage, seeking help can be one of the best things that we can do for our children. Just as we should not expect perfection from our children, we cannot expect perfection from ourselves.
If you or your child could use some help managing back-to-school anxiety or would like to talk about strategies for managing your or your child’s overall mental health during their time in school, the counselors at Keri Powell Therapy are here for you. Our trained and compassionate therapists want to make sure you and your child are ready for success before, during, and after school. Go ahead and give us a call. We want to help bring the joy of education to your family.