Managing Anxiety as the School Starts: Few words about Reassurance
Marta A. Gea Franca, LMFT
It’s that time of the year again! Back to school is around the corner. Children and parents may be thinking about what to expect as the school starts. For children experiencing anxiety, the uncertainty about the first day of school contributes to an increase in their anxiety level. By seeking reassurance from parents that everything will be fine in the first day of school, children have a sense they are in control and can manage their anxiety.
Children experiencing anxiety seek reassurance from parents to feel safe, in control and capable of managing their anxiety. Many times, parents will provide children with reassurance to help them feel less anxious and less worried. Examples of ways in which parents attempt to reassure children include physical affection, telling the child that everything is going to be okay and that there is nothing they should be afraid of. There might be nothing wrong when parents reassure children to provide comfort, nurturing and stress relief. However, when using reassurance with children who are anxious. Parents unintentionally may be contributing to the beginning of a vicious cycle. Children who are anxious are not able to rely on themselves and will ask for reassurance far more often than other children.
When children are anxious and worried about the first day of school and start asking parents for reassurance, the best strategy parents can use is to teach children to come up with answers themselves when they are faced with stressful situations and when things don’t go well as expected.
Instead of giving the child reassurance, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be okay”, it’s helpful to teach children to brainstorm ideas about what can happen when things are not okay, and what can be done when things don’t go as planned. Providing children with problem solving tools and letting them know that they will be able to handle change and stressful situations when they come up is a helpful way to empower and teach children to manage their anxiety.
Life is full of uncertainties; by teaching children that they will be able to handle change when they come up is a helpful way of empowering children to manage their anxiety.