Updated: Feb 2
The start of a new school year can be exciting for most kids but it can also cause an increase in anxiety. Even the most easy going kids will feel butterflies about returning to the new school year, and kids that are prone to worry will likely get a lot more nervous than usual and perhaps start to act out or get clingier to Mum and/or Dad.
Some tips that may help:
1. Be aware, Listen and Empathise: It is important to let them know it is normal to be nervous. Show empathy and let them know that you understand their concerns. Be mindful of your own emotions when talking to your child. A parent's stress can be picked up on by your child so try to stay calm and confident.
2. Problem solve: Children will feel empowered if they are part of the solution. They will also be seeking your reassurance that everything will be alright. Role playing can help and talking about a plan if the anxiety provoking issue does arise, for example "what happens if no one wants to play with me"?
3. Pump up the positivity: Discuss past positive experience's in your child's school life. Talk to them about their strengths and talents. Go shopping for school supplies together and let the child decide on some of the purchases. When children feel included they are more likely to embrace change.
4. Get into a routine: Regular routines can ease anxiety and make the transition back to school easier. You may also want to let the child's teacher or school counsellor know that your child is feeling anxious. Schools have systems in place to help with these things like peer buddies.
5. Reward the resilience: After the first day or week, praise and reward your child for being so resilient in a difficult transition. Talk to your child about the resilience they have shown and why this will make them a better person in the long run. Remind them that anxiety around change is normal. Reward your child with some new school supplies, a treat, an outing, or a favourite meal.
If the anxiety continues:
Don't ignore the behaviour if it continues well into the school year. Some of the behaviour to watch for may include poor eating habits, trouble sleeping, refusal to attend school, physical symptoms (i.e. vomiting), or emotional outbursts.
Talk to your child's teacher or school counsellor to establish whether the behaviour is a problem at school as well as the home. You could also talk to your GP and better assess if your child may benefit from additional support.