“School bells are ringing loud and clear; Vacation is over, School is here.” - Winifred C Marshal
Summer vacation for a child is the absolute best time of the year for children. Free from homework, tests, and overloaded extracurricular activities. Children are able to sit back, relax, and unwind during the summer and enjoy activities that they would be unable to enjoy during the school year. As summer passes by and the school year rapidly approaches dread and unease can sometimes creep in. Have you noticed that your child has been getting more and more anxious as the school year approaches? Has your child been vocal about not wanting to go back to school or being nervous about the upcoming school year? If so, this blog is for you.
In this blog, I will be covering how to prepare your child who has been demonstrating difficulty with anxiety for the new school year. Understanding back-to-school anxiety with children is important because anxiety regarding going back to school can be very common in children. Why do back-to-school anxieties happen? Going back to school comes with many factors that can be difficult to transition back to. When summer ends and the school year begins, children are forced to shift their schedules swiftly which can be a difficult transition. Other factors such as fitting in socially and being mentally and emotionally prepared for the school year can also cause distress to children who have demonstrated difficulty with managing the school year previously or in the past. The school creates pressures with tests and exams and being able to juggle academics, extracurriculars, and social lives.
To better understand, as an adult we can think about going back to work on Monday after we have just enjoyed our weekend. The feeling that we experience on Sundays, is commonly called “the Sunday Scaries.” “The Sunday Scaries” or “Sunday Blues” according to the Cleveland Clinic is defined as intense anxiety that routinely occurs every Sunday during the afternoon hours. According to a LinkedIn survey, it was reported that 80% of professionals experience “Sunday Scaries.” The Sunday Scaries experiences can be compared to what children experience when their summer comes to an end and the school year is beginning. Signs of back-to-school anxiety according to Harvard Health include significant changes in the child's sleeping pattern, such as waking up through the night if unusual and being unable to go to sleep. Signs also include being frequently sick or unwell, worrisome thoughts, and avoiding school preparation activities. So how do we prepare our children for going back to school?
Tips for Assisting with Back-to-School Anxiety:
Managing back-to-school anxiety can be difficult for both the child and the parent but is possible. If your child is struggling with back-to-school anxiety, utilize these tips to assist your child with transitioning back to school smoothly.
Talk About it!: Acknowledge your child's anxiety. Talking about your child's worries and fears regarding the school year. Having conversations with your child can be soothing and assist your child with feeling heard. Giving examples of your own worries and fears can also assist with validation and feeling understood.
Soothe: Teach your child soothing skills that are age-appropriate and also focus on family relaxation and mindfulness exercises to assist with managing anxiety.
Slowly Prepare: Begin creating a routine that will mimic the school day a week or two before the summer ends to make the transition smoother. Change wake-up times as well as bedtimes and make dinner and lunch times similar to when school starts. Focus on packing backpacks and simulate homework times to assist with transitioning to the new school schedule.
Attend Pre-School Events: Make an effort to attend open houses and meet the teacher events to familiarize your child with their new teachers and school. Being able to walk your child to their class or classes can assist with anxiety related to being confused on the first day of school.
Reward: Create a reward system for your child sharing or expressing their feelings and emotions as well as for utilizing coping skills to normalize feeling anxious and being comfortable with sharing.
All in all, back-to-school anxiety is common and can be difficult to manage but is possible with the tips mentioned above. Preparations such as talking about anxiety, self-soothing skills, slowly preparing for the school year, attending pre-school year events, and rewarding are all tips that can be useful for transitioning back to school.
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