School is not only a source of learning it can also be a place of support and community. School provides kids with structure, responsibilities, exposure to new ideas and experiences and can boost self-esteem. It is a place where relationships are formed, both with peers and trusted adults.
However, it is normal for kids to feel worried about aspects of school from time-to-time. It is common for kids to sometimes worry about their grades, whether they’ll make the volleyball team or if they’ll make friends. These kinds of worries are usually short-lived, but for some kids school can cause ongoing stress and worry for a longer period of time.
Getting your child support to manage their anxious feelings is a good first step. Here are five simple ways to help your child 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 of your air 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 make 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 their worst fears about school and then support them in coming up with possible solutions. This will help your child feel prepared and confident to take on the day.
Support their basic needs: Make sure your child is eating nutritious foods and getting enough rest and exercise. Anxiety can impact one’s appetite and sleep. It is recommended that kids turn off screens at least one hour before bed to help them fall asleep faster.
Spend time in nature: Suggest taking a walk or hike with your kid or go to a nearby park. Getting outdoors and breathing fresh air is a great way to calm frazzled nerves.
These are only a few of many ways to help your child feel more calm and confident about their relationship to school. For some kids, the above coping strategies will be enough, and others will need more support. It is important to recognize when your child’s school anxiety is a problem and to seek help from the school and/or other professionals. If you feel like your child’s anxiety is becoming too big of an issue we’re here to help. Call us for a free consultation at (925) 820-8447.
Christine Holmberg, MA, LMFT