By: Cheryl Hajjar – Sept. 2015
With the 2015 school year underway, our children are all headed back to new classrooms. That means many of them might be a little anxious or have fears on going back. A sense of nervousness is pretty common and to be expected. Some of the thoughts that might be floating around in your child’s head might be, “Will I like my teachers?”
“Who will sit with me at the lunch table?” “Will I get lost?”
“Am I going to be able to handle the schoolwork ?”
“Are my clothes cool enough?”
These questions and many more are normal for your child to be asking themselves. Some children may even regress a bit and wet the bed, thumb suck or start complaining of a stomach ache or a headache, just to try and avoid going to school. These are tell tale signs that your child just has a case of the new school year jitters.
So what can you do to prepare your child and help them feel a little less anxious? Here are a few ways to ease them into a healthy school year.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE- When a child is experiencing anxiety, it is common for them to forget to eat or not get enough sleep. This will only make their nervousness worse. Establishing a healthy sleep routine a week or so out from the start of school will be helpful. Put them to bed at the same time each evening to make sure they get enough sleep. In the morning, make breakfast at the same time that they would be having breakfast during the school year. Having predictable routines create healthy habits for your child.
PROBLEM SOLVE- When your child is nervous, reassuring them isn’t always the best solution. Saying things like “Everything will be ok” or “don’t worry, things will be fine” actually do not help them at all. Most of their anxiety is caused by fear of the unknown so taking the approach of problem solving and asking them questions like “Why are you nervous?” or “What things do you think you are afraid of” would be better questions to ask. After getting the answers from your child, you can help minimize their fears by having answers to their questions and helping them to come up with solutions if certain scenarios do take place such as not being able to find your locker, or not knowing where the bathroom is. The more prepared your child is with answers and solutions , the less anxious they will be.
RE-TELLING YOUR CHILDHOOD STORIES – Children love to hear our childhood stories of when we were young. If you can remember a few of them of when you were in their school-age years can be a mutually fun and bonding experience between you and you’re son or daughter. Your child will be reassured and take comfort in the fact that you experienced a similar situation in your youth. Try and pick a story that relates to their current fears or scenario.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE- Encourage your child to focus on the positive experiences they are having in school. Asking them things like “What was the funniest thing that happened today in class?” or “What was the one really important thing that you learned in school today?” can be deterrents to any anxiety or worrisome behavior. There is a good chance that the fun or interesting aspects of school are simply being overlooked by the repetitive anxious feelings they are having.
BE CONFIDENT- You yourself might be feeling a little nervous about your child going to their first day of school, especially if they are younger and entering early grades such as kindergarten or first grade. No matter what you are feeling, always exude confidence when speaking about those first days of school. Children can pick up and even mimic the vibes we put out there so keep your cool.
ROLE PLAY- How about a fun day of role playing? This is a great exercise for your child and will help them make a plan and feel more confident that he or she will be able to handle any situation that comes their way. Let your child play the demanding teacher role or reverse it and you play the teacher. Make up different scenarios that relate to the nervousness your child may be having and have them come up with solutions to their anxious feelings. It will be a great way to have your child learn how to problem solve.
Whether your an adult or a child, everyone experiences fear of the unknown feelings, especially in new situations. By helping your child harness this slight anxiety at a young age, you will be planting the foundation for them to become great problem solvers as they grow.
Cheryl Hajjar, President & CEO “Building Childhood Independence” Indigo Magic (978) 479-4899