How To Ease Back-To-School Anxiety
Normalize and Validate Feelings
- Let your child know that most kids feel anxious the day/night before school, that’s normal --you can share that you used to feel worried too.
- If you child struggled (academically, socially or behaviorally) last school year, acknowledge that fact but also acknowledge some of the positives of the last school year.
- ”Last year was definitely mixed. You grades were great but some of the kids were not so nice.”
- “You did great in science and English but math was really challenging.”
- Ask your child what his specific worry is. If your child is unsure why he is anxious, share some common reasons that students worry (this will often elicit a response).
Common worries are:
- The teacher might be mean
- No one I know is in my class
- Other kids will be cliquish
- I won’t have anyone to sit with at lunch
- The work will be hard and I might fail
- I won’t be be able to find my classroom and the late bell will ring
- I won’t be able to quickly open my locker
- No one will talk to me
- Someone might bully me
- The kids on the bus will be mean
Shift into Problem Solving Mode
Cultivate a“We’re in this Together” Environment
- For Each worry your child mentions ask:
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- Come up with a possible plan to deal with each worst case scenario
- What’s the best that could happen?
- What will probably happen?
Explain Why This Year Will Be Different
- Highlight any changes that have been made, (lighter caseload, your child is slated to receive classroom/testing accommodations and/or modifications, extra academic (reading, math, resource room) support, there is a different mix of children in this class, etc.).
- If nothing has formally changed talk about ways you and your child can be proactive. (see suggestions below)
Limit School Conversations-Don’t Allow Obsessing
- The goal is to project that things are under control
- There is a plan in place and nothing to worry about
- Briefly repeat the plan and then distract your child with an activity he enjoys.
Remember You Don’t Need to Have the Perfect Solution;
You Just Need a Plan
Proactive Plan Suggestions
For Social Issues
- Get your child speaking to classmates within the first day or two of school. The longer he waits to break the ice, the harder it will become.
- Script you child and role-play
2 -3 casual, brief conversations your child can have with another student on the first day or two of school. (“Did you have a good summer?” What (video games, sports) are you into in?). Role-play these same conversations a few times.
- Consider offering a small reward for each conversation you child has with a new classmate. Anxious children may want to reach out but in the moment it’s more tempting to remain quietly comfortable.
For Academic/Behavioral Issues
- Periodic checking ins with the teacher, (even if the teacher does not reach out to you), regarding your child’s classwork, socialization and in-school behaviors). The end of the second week of school is a good time to do an initial reach out.
- Communication with the teacher gives a message to your child that all three of you are a team and it helps the teacher to feel supported.
- No electronics until homework is completed and checked.
- Parents--will check homework, agenda books, online parent portals, etc. to ensure all work is being completed and that grades are up to par.
- Spend time going over your child's work and checking for understanding.
- Insist he/she attends extra help sessions at school.
- Monitor the way your child studies. Reading through class notes, for most children, is not the most effective way to study.
- Quiz your child before a test.
- Help organize your child (plan out short and long-range assignments on a calendar).
- If your child is having behavioral issues, ask for a functional behavior analysis to be done.
- Connect school behavior to home rewards.
- If your child is struggling, take action quickly. This could include:
- Talking with the teacher/counselor/principal to develop a plan
- Arranging for tutoring
- Requesting the school conduct a formal evaluation of your child.