It’s that magical time of year, with pencils, notebooks, and highlighters decorating the aisles in every store. That’s right. It is back to school time! Every child is groaning, while every parent can’t wait for those new shoes to step into the squeaky halls of school. But what if the back to school hype is making your child nervous or worried? How can you help them stay calm and prepare for school?
The School Supply List
Every year, you get a supply list from your school of what you need to bring on the first day. It may be a tradition to go to your local store to pick out all the things your child needs, or pick out new shoes, or a fun outfit.
If your child is nervous about the first day, or is having anxiety, then it is important that you prepare in other ways too. First, grab this guide, 15 back to school must-haves for worried kids and teens. This is the ultimate list specifically for those that have anxiety.
Preparing Mentally for Back to School
You need to balance talking about back to school and not talking about it so much that it increases anxiety. Follow these guidelines to ease the discussion.
- Follow your child’s lead – If talking about school raises the anxiety in your child, wait for their lead in discussing it. This may mean holding off on shopping, or avoiding back to school ads for your child. Let your child tell you when they are ready to talk about it.
- Ask Questions – The perfect balance of asking enough questions, but not enough. Your child may not know what they are feeling. So if you notice the behavior changing in your child, you can start to ask questions, such as, “How are you feeling about…?” Or, “What makes you nervous about school?”
- Validate Their Feelings – Most parents want to respond by saying, “It will be OK. Everything is fine. School is going to be great.” But this tells your child that they shouldn’t be feeling anxious and that those feelings are wrong. Instead say, “It’s OK to feel nervous. Many kids feel nervous. I am here for you and I love you.”
- Walk through worst scenarios – If your child keeps wondering “What if?” you can lead them through the exercise of talking about the worst case scenario. For example if your child says, “What if I don’t know anyone at school?” Your response can be, “Then what happens.” Child – “I won’t have anyone to play with at recess.” Parent – “Then what happens?” Child – “I will have to play alone.” Parent – “ I can see why that would cause you to be nervous.” Now that you know what their main concern is, you can come up with a plan. Help them know what to do if they are by themselves on the playground.
- Talk about what is in your control and out of your control – Help your child understand what is in their control and what is out of their control. This also helps them focus their energy on what they actually can control and have an effect on. What it comes down to, is that we really only have control over our own emotions and actions. Children need to know that they can take control over emotions and actions. This will help them control their anxiety.
How Parent Anxiety Affects Children
Remember that many kids feel anxious about going back to school after a long break. It is normal. It is also normal for parents to feel anxious. You may be worried that your child won’t make any friends, or that they may struggle in school. Maybe you’re worried they will hate it and refuse to go, which means long mornings of fighting them to get there.
Your emotions do affect your child. Find ways to manage your own anxiety over school, but your main priority is to support them, validate their feelings, and show them unconditional love. You got this!