back to school anxiety for children

PREVENT

Six tips to reduce your kids’ back-to-school anxiety

  • Not knowing is scary for kids. Details and information will reduce your child’s fears and help them understand what’s going to happen.
  • When talking to your kids, use simple language, include details, and be honest.
  • Chaotic and unpredictable environments make it harder for kids to develop important executive functioning skills.

It’s normal for kids to have anxiety about starting a new school year. It’s especially challenging this year, dealing with the uncertainty of how school will be structured during COVID-19. Here are some strategies to help calm your child’s fears and anxieties about back-to-school.

1. Check your own emotions

Children are good at reading your emotions. As a parent, you may have your own worries about your child’s school experience. It’s important to calm yourself before talking to your kids about their fears or worries for the new school year.

2. Explain what the school day will look like

Don’t assume your child will know about complex ideas like hybrid learning or distance learning. Give them examples of what their day or week might look like. Show them that: this is where you’ll be learning.

  • it’s going to be on the computer
  • here’s your mask
  • this is where you’ll be having lunch
  • this is how far apart you’ll sit from your friends.

Be simple, include details, and be honest. You can also be creative with them and come up with ways to decorate their learning space. 

3. Give as many details as you can

Sometimes we try to hide details because we’re afraid of our kids’ anxiety, but knowledge and information will reduce your child’s fears and help them feel like they understand what’s going to happen. Not knowing is one of the scariest things for kids.

4. Ask specific questions

Instead of an open-ended “how did your day go?” invite kids to share by asking specific questions. Challenge them to look for things during the school day to tell you about at the end of the school day, especially questions that can help them. For example, ask your child:

  • What made you excited?
  • What made you sad?
  • What worried or worries you?
  • What made you mad?

Listen, validate, then help them manage their feelings and problem-solve any issues. Include your child in the problem solving.  Children often have great ideas. 

5. Shift anxious thoughts to more positive thoughts

Help your child pay attention to something positive rather than dwelling on their fears. Ask them to look for:

  • one thing you were excited about
  • one time you saw someone help a friend
  • something funny that happened. 

6. Help your child master fears

Ask your child “What are you afraid of?” to try to understand the danger they are imagining. Prompt them to explain how they might deal with the danger. This can help your child build skills to master their fears and feel more confident, which is much better than trying to convince kids that their worries aren’t real.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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