Helping your child cope with Back to School Anxiety

It’s that time of the year and despite the commercials with moms or dads happily dancing down the aisle of some school supply store with the song “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” blasting in the back ground, for some children the feeling of going back to school can be overwhelming and down right scary! Whether it’s a new school (transition from pre-k to Elementary, Elementary to High School or even one grade to another) For some children, each and every new experience may bring with it some form of stress and feelings of anxiety. While it is normal to have some trepidation about a new beginning, when behaviors become excessive, or interfere with a child’s daily functioning that’s when parents might want to seek additional support. Important aspects to be aware of are that back to school anxiety is quite common among children facing new experiences and can be addressed rather effectively and concretely.

Katherine Lee offers some concrete tips for parents in her recent article posted on About.com: http://childparenting.about.com/od/schoollearning/a/Tips-To-Ease-Back-To-School-Anxiety.htm. Prevention is a key factor in helping children cope. Preparing children for any new experience by talking about their feelings is the first step. Ask them how they are feeling about the start of school – then LISTEN to the answer without passing judgment. If they share concerns, dig deeper by asking them what specifically worries them (not knowing where to go, making friends, finding lockers). Then follow up with other questions rather than a general, “Oh you have nothing to worry about” which not only minimizes what they are saying but demonstrates that you are not listening. You can also encourage them to take control of the situation by asking if there is anything that they feel they can do that might help ease the transition. For example, many parents will bring their children to the new environment and/or have them meet the teachers prior to the beginning of school. Others will map out the school, routine, Dzlay of the land” in order to “demystify” the experience. Ultimately each and every child will find their way back to school (both literally and figuratively). Our role as parents, regardless of the age of the child, is to apply the necessary support that will ensure the transition back to school is as seamless as possible for everyone.

Wishing you a wonderful start to the school year,

Corrie Sirota MSW, PSW

A few years back I was interviewed on Living Montreal on this topic –video can be found at: https://vimeo.com/48481181