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Back-to-School: Anxiety

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It’s that time of the year, where kids are getting ready for school: some excited, and some anxious. Depending on the temperament of your child this whole new experience of school can be rewarding or frustrating. Add to the mix; stress of moving to a new school, and a worrier. Well, as a parent you don’t have control on certain circumstances; but have on how to control the situation.

What is Anxiety

Anxiety commonly known as “fear of unknown” is a normal part of childhood, with phases that every child goes through. These phases are temporary and usually harmless. However children who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience fear, nervousness, and shyness, avoiding places and activities (Anxiety and Depression Association of America [ADAA],n.d). Anxiety can manifest itself when exposed to stress; which kids and teens find it difficult to recognize, not to mention verbalize. Changes in behavior such as irritability, routine expression of worries, excessive complaints about school, frequent crying, display of surprising fearful reactions, separation anxiety, sleeping too much or too little, or eating too much or too little; indicate your child is under immense stress (Brain & Behavior Research Foundation).

So how do we as parents help our children cope with stress leading to anxiety? Listed below are some tips from experts that will boost your stress-management toolbox; giving your child self-confidence to deal with change and anxiety.

Tips to help deal with back-to-school anxiety:

1. One week before school:

  • Start your family on a school-day routine.
  • Provide older siblings with an alarm clock so that they can practice using it.
  • Plan school lunches, and fun shopping trip for school supplies with your child (Anxiety BC,n.d)

2. Expectations

According to psychologist Lynn Sauerland, PhD who has experience treating children and adolescents with anxiety disorders for more than 15 years it is imperative you have the same expectations of your anxious child that you would of another child (Anxiety and Depression Association of America [ADAA],n.d). Clear expectations help kids build confidence, and strategize their actions (“Parenting Tips for Anxious Kids”, n.d).You may definitely help your child make a checklist to complete a task along with action plans for anxiety and fear ; but do not compromise on the overall expectations you have from them. All kids are unique and some may take more time as it's a process to achieve the end goal; your consistency will help them become self-reliant and confident citizens.

3. Respect

Respect your child’s feelings, pay attention to them, and exercise patience. As stated by Dr.Clark Goldstein “You want to listen and be empathetic, help her understand what she’s anxious about, and encourage her to feel that she can face her fears”. Dr.Goldstein reiterates the message you want to send to your child is, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this” ( Goldstein,n.d,para.5)

4. Tour

Take a tour of the school to help your child feel less nervous on the first day. During the tour let your child understand:

  • school rules regarding before, lunch, and after-school procedures.
  • layout of school including bathrooms, cafeteria, and most importantly their classroom.

Attend orientation day, and if possible meet your child’s teacher to help them acclimate to the new environment.

5. Role-play

Do a “first-day dry-run” with our child to help them cope with anxiety associated with the new school year. Role-play helps boost self-confidence, and lessen anxiety. Through role-plays you can reiterate the fact that it is perfectly normal to ask for help from teachers, and other students.

As stressful back to school can be for kids; it can equally be stressful for parents too. Melanie Badali,a registered psychologist , and Anxiety BC Board Director advises parents to “ Take your own temperature and manage stress. Model brave, optimistic words and actions for your child. Although it is difficult – try not to take on more commitments than the family can handle comfortably. Saying no now can mean saying yes to less stress later”.

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