Back to school can be an exciting and scary time for kids. Whether it's going to school for the first time, going to a new school, or just adjusting to being in a new class, all of this can cause anxiety in kids.
Some people, especially children, may not know what they are experiencing is anxiety. Some symptoms may include a fast heartbeat, an upset stomach, feeling hot, clammy hands, easily angered or annoyed, and trouble sleeping. Because these symptoms can be a variety of things, and everybody experiences anxiety in their own way, it is important to pay attention to what your child is feeling and when they are feeling it as this can give you a clue if it is a cold or flu, or feeling anxious or stressed.
If your child is having anxiety about going to school, here are some things that can help.
Stick to a regular routine. This is important for morning and night. Nighttime routines help to calm your child and get them ready for sleep. Morning routines help to get them going and help them know what is expected of them before they go to school. This routine builds comfort because then they know what to do and what the routine of the day will be like.
Open Communication. Have a talk with your kid and see how they are feeling. Is there anything happening at school that may be causing the anxiety like an upcoming test or bullying? Helping resolve these issues can help ease your child’s anxiety. If it is just school as a whole, it helps that your child can talk about what they are feeling so that you can help them through their emotions with education (what anxiety is) and coping skills (deep breathing, self-soothing, etc.).
Coping Skills. There are many different coping skills that are presented in a way that is best for the age of your child. Deep breathing to help with anxiety can be presented to kids as star-breathing (tracing a star and breathing with it), blowing out the candles (blowing out the “candles” a.k.a. fingers on their hand), and more. It is important to teach these skills before your child needs them because when they are feeling anxious, their brain will be too distracted to learn something new. Teach and practice these skills often (they don’t take much time!) so that when anxiety arises, your child has a better understanding of what to do. Having you or other members in the house also practice and use these coping skills with the child can help show them how to effectively use them, and helps them be able to better focus and practice the skill.
Give Them a Memento or Something That Reminds Them of You. When I was young, my mother would always give me a necklace of hers to help when I was heading into an anxious situation. I would hold and rub the pendant to help me remember my mom and relax. If separation is hard (especially for young kids), this is a way for them to know that they will see you again and that you are still with them, even if not in person. Some ideas include jewelry, a family picture, etc.
Self-Soothing. Like having a memento to relax, these are things that use the 5 senses to help your child relax. You don’t need to soothe all the senses, but can focus on one, and change or add the others as needed. Some people make a self-soothing box that can have many of these items, and then the child can pick what they want to use. It is also important to note when you can use items, as some may be hard to bring to school or transport. Some examples of self-soothing using the senses include:
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