Managing Child Back-to-School Anxiety [5 Tips]
For many children, returning to school is an exciting time of discovery, reuniting with friends, and growth. For others, the loss of carefree summer days can cause apprehension, even panic. Whether your child is attending a brick and mortar school, a cyber charter model, or being homeschooled, here are some ways to help address back-to-school concerns, and ease your child's transition back into the academic year. Here are five tips for managing child back-to-school anxiety.
- Implement new routines early.
- Fill remaining evenings with family-centric activities.
- Allow children some ownership over daily life.
- Reinforce the importance of education and learning.
- Have open conversations about your child’s feelings and emotions.
Implement New Routines Early
Reviewing expectations, schedules, and establishing routines are key to minimizing any start-of-school confusion. Once you establish these patterns, don’t wait until Day 1 of the 2021-2022 school year to implement your plans. A week or two prior to the start of school, start having your child wake up at the new time and go through the routine (as much as possible at this point). When their first day arrives, it will be business as usual.
Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist at Columbia University and founder of Aha! Parenting, highlights several benefits of routines and schedules, including how they help children establish biological schedules for falling asleep, encourage cooperation, reduce or eliminate power struggles, and, most importantly, allow parents to build in valuable moments of connection.
Fill Remaining Evenings with Family-Centric Activities
While summer doesn’t technically end until September 22, the winds of change are blowing! Since the post-August evenings will likely involve homework and earlier bedtimes, use these last few weeks to surround your child with additional support and encouragement — and remind them that you have their back, no matter what! This is a great time to watch another sunset over a picnic dinner at the beach, have a bonfire in your backyard, or have a family game or movie night.
Engaging in family bonding time, according to Diversity News Magazine, deepens relationships, can improve academic and extracurricular performance, promotes respect, and impacts children's view of self worth, according to Diversity News Magazine.
Allow Children Some Ownership Over Daily Life
Providing them with agency can minimize any perceptions of having no control over their circumstances, as well as any resulting behaviors. While there are some tasks that they cannot avoid doing, smaller decisions can ease the tension and keep them focused. Let them decorate their learning space to their liking, help determine meals for the week, and work with you to determine homework completion ground rules and consequences. Plus, they’ll be practicing self-discipline and responsibility, so it’s a win-win all around!
The Center for Parenting Education notes that children feel capable when they have a sense of power, competency, and control, and believe that they can handle challenges and contribute to their environment. Empowering them in small ways, even just in their learning space, can have a significant positive impact down the road.
Reinforce the Importance of Education and Learning
Connect your child’s personal and career ambitions and goals to their school attendance, and emphasize how it — and you — support their plans. Being an astronaut, for example, requires an education, usually with a focus on the sciences and engineering. Champion their aspirations, and remind them of their goal when they need encouragement. Even better, connect your family-centric activities to their passions, and watch their attitude shift!
In addition to helping students pursue their personal or career goals, education teaches them to think critically, interact with others, consider new ideas, and develop their character. Dr. Patrick Capriola, an education professional and founder of Strategies for Parents, writes that modeling these behaviors as a parent is a powerful strategy for instilling an appreciation for learning.
Have Open Conversations About Your Child's Emotions
Maybe you take 15 minutes before bed to ask your child how they’re feeling, or you chat over the dinner table. While most parents are already doing this, it’s particularly important during these times of change. Outbursts, tantrums, rapidly fluctuating emotions, and physical illness — such as changes in sleep patterns, unexplained stomach aches, and more — can indicate deeper concerns, such as your child being bullied, social anxiety, and mental health issues.
Child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Clark Goldstein suggests that parents be empathetic, encouraging, and positive in their approach, while not reinforcing fears or avoiding anxiety-inducing situations. Talk through these emotions with your child, but if you feel out of your depth, consider contacting a counselor, mental health professional, or your child’s doctor.
Changes are often difficult for children and adults alike. A new school year can pose some emotional challenges, but focusing on the opportunities can make for an easier transition. We hope that these five tips for managing child back-to-school anxiety are helpful.
Still evaluating your schooling options for this fall? Check out our best questions to ask when choosing the right education for your child.
Photo credit to Deleece Cook on Unsplash.