It’s August, which means school is right around the corner. Summer activities are winding down, and soon math tests and essays will replace camping and pool parties. For many families, the start of a new school year means frantic mornings, busy schedules, and what might seem like, endless school projects.
This transition can be stressful for the whole family.
Kids, teens and parents often feel a mixture of excitement and worry about the approach of a new school year. It is understandably so as kids have a lot on their minds, from navigating school and completing homework to fitting in and making friends.
First day of the school year jitters are normal for children and teens, especially for those starting school for the very first time. You might notice your child feeling anxious about the approach of a new school year. Anxiety can manifest as physical complaints (i.e. headaches, stomachaches), defiant behavior, tantrums and/or avoidance and withdrawal. School anxiety is hard on kids and is challenging for parents, too.
Here are five ways to help your kid or teen cope with anxious feelings:
- Breathing exercises. Focusing on your breath is a great way to relax and take your mind off worrying. Model for your child how to take slow and deep belly breaths, making sure to exhale all the oxygen out. You can find different breathing techniques online and experiment to find what works best for your child. Some people find it helpful to practice this technique when they already feel calm and relaxed as it helps them to get used to breathing more deeply. If breathing exercises makes your child more anxious, it’s okay to stop and try something else.
- Lend an ear. More often than not, kids just want to be heard. Invite your child to share their concerns. While it can be tempting to try and “fix” their problems or downplay their fears, try and put that urge aside. Instead, listen, reflect and validate their emotions. This can help to normalize their experience and maybe even lessen the intensity of the anxiety.
- Problem solve. Ask your child to share his/her worst fears about school and then support him/her in coming up with possible solutions. This will help your child feel prepared.
- Support their basic needs. Make sure your child is eating nutritious foods and getting enough rest and exercise. Anxiety can often impact one’s appetite and sleep. It can be helpful to establish a new bedtime routine a couple weeks before school starts so kids have enough time to adjust their sleep schedule.
- Spend time in nature. Suggest taking a walk or hike with your kid or going to a nearby park. Getting outdoors is and breathing fresh air is a great way to calm frazzled nerves.
These are only a few of the many ways to help your child feel calmer and more confident about the start of the new school year. However, if you need support in managing your child’s anxiety, we here at Treehouse Counseling can help. We can work with and help your child increase their coping skills so he or she is able to manage their anxiety and stress.
Christine Holmberg, MA, LMFT