Help Your Child With Back-to-School Anxiety and Stress

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Usually, back-to-school creates anxiety and stress for many kids.  This year, anxiety and stress may have increased because of concerns about COVID, worries about friendships, or lost academic skills.   Many kids may be going back to full-time learning after many months of either hybrid learning or remote learning. There are numerous reasons that kids may experience stress and anxiety about returning to school. The reasons are as different and varied as the kids are.

8  SIGNS THAT MAY INDICATE YOUR CHILD IS ANXIOUS:

  • He appears fidgety and restless
  • Clingy
  • She says her stomach hurts
  • Cries for no reason
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Picks more fights with his siblings or maybe easily upset
  • Sleep and eating routine changes
  • Talks about negative thoughts or worries

WAYS YOU CAN HELP YOUR CHILD DEAL WITH THE STRESS AND ANXIETY OF GOING BACK TO SCHOOL:

Be prepared.  Getting your kids ready to go back to school may take a lot of work.

Breathe:  Breathe in like you’re smelling a flower, breathe out like you’re blowing to cool off a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows.   A longer out-breath than in-breath turns off the part of our brain that makes us anxious and worried – the fight/flight system.  We can then turn on the part of our brain that calms and relaxes – the rest and repair system or parasympathetic system. 

Be Available: Kids are most likely to talk at bedtime, before dinner, or in the car. So be ready to listen.

Listen:  Young children often express their feelings of stress and worry when they play. Watch and listen to them during play to help you understand their worries. When an older child tells you what is troubling them, please stop what you are doing and listen to what they are saying. Ask questions and offer suggestions in a non-intrusive way.

Respond don’t React: It is essential to focus on your child’s feelings rather than your own during a conversation. Soften any strong reactions. If your child is older, ask them what they need from you, i.e., advice, help in solving a problem, or help in dealing with their feelings.

Model: Kids learn by watching.  What you do is more important than what you say. You will help them develop good coping strategies by modeling positive behavior.   

More Practical Ideas: When my kids were little – the oldest is almost 40 now – oh my, how did that happen so fast!  Anyway, my point is – one thing that helped stop the stress of the back-to-school experience was organization.  I was always on the lookout for ideas and resources to help my kids get more organized.  I created a school day routine.  I organized the entryway to create an easy and efficient “staging area” for before and after school.  I made sure each kid had a pleasant and quiet area where they could do their homework.

Stress Ball – Help your kids say goodby to the stresses of the day by squeezing the pressure away with this stress ball.  (click here)  for a video on how to make one for everyone in the family.

Stress Less/Glitter Jar – This glitter jar is a powerful visual to help your child, or you find calmness in the swirling chaos of your thoughts.   Observe the glitter and bubbles settle in the jar and feel your thoughts become calm as your body relaxes.  (click here) for a video on how to make one.

Disclaimer:  If these tips aren’t helping, seek advice from a licensed mental health professional such as a child psychologist. They are trained to help you and your child manage overwhelming stress.