Back to school means many things for students; new clothes and shoes, a new book bag full of supplies, and getting back to friends. While all of those fun ventures of school lie on the surface, many kids go to school with lots of worry and anxiety. Many times, these worries are never verbalized, but rather internalized. “Will I know my teachers? Will I get lost? Will my friends sit at my lunch table? What if I miss my bus?” Some children are better suited to roll with the punches that come with school while others struggle with the changes and adjustment.Of course, anxiety is natural in these types of circumstances, but there are many ways to help combat the anxiety that may be overwhelming to students. As adults, whether we are a parent, teacher, or simply a part of a child’s life, it is very important to acknowledge the child’s feelings and normalize it without disregarding their feelings. Between grades, peer interactions, school projects, and testing in today’s classroom, there are many things that children have to worry about. It is easy to see that the pressures of being a child, teen, or young adult are changing much more rapidly than in the past.Here are a few basic tips to help fight off the back to school nerves:
- Sleep is the best defense! Begin to reinforce a healthy sleep pattern 2 weeks before beginning school again. 8+ hours is ideal for a school aged child.
- Setting a “power down” time for all electronics can be helpful to begin the sleep schedule as well.
- Practicing the dreaded wakeup call is also very helpful for the entire family.
- Planning outfits, packing lunches, and finishing homework is better suited to be completed the night before in order to allow for a smooth start to the day for everyone involved.
- Get acquainted! Visit the school with the student, attend orientations, and talk with the school counselor if you’re worried that the student’s jitters are more than just jitters.
- For young children, visiting the school multiple times is often available. Becoming familiar with the lunchroom, gym, etc. are simple ways to improve your child’s confidence in their ability to tackle the school year.
- Become familiar with your child’s teacher. Know how to contact the teacher and make him/her aware that you are involved and interested in anything that may pertain to your child’s wellbeing.
- Show Interest! Have a daily check in with your children, in other ways than “how was your day?” Often times, questions such as “what friends did you see at lunch?” or “what kind of fun stuff are you doing in art?” will yield more answers and information about the child’s day and mood than the basic questions.
- Check your own emotions. Although sending kids off to school is overwhelming for parents, always remember that your own emotions and reactions are easily transferred to these young eyes and ears who are trying to “learn how to react”. Instead, focus on the fun of a huge milestone in their lives!
Lacey Marks, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who provides Behavioral Health services for Primary Health Network. She joined PHN in October 2013. Lacey earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree from Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA, and her Masters of Science in Social Work degree from Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA. She has two children ages 3 and 6, and in her free time, she loves quad riding and kayaking at her family camp.