No parent wants to see their child struggle, especially when it involves seeing them upset and anxious at the school gates. The start of the new school year is exciting for most children, but it can also bring a lot of worry and anxiety. Even kids who are usually calm and confident can get the jitters, and may become clingier and more nervous than usual. The stress of going into a new class, starting a new school or having a different teacher can add to the emotional strain. Maybe you have noticed your child is anxious, complaining of headaches, tummy aches, mood swings or is not quite acting themselves.
Kids worry about all sorts of things such as teachers, friends, fitting in and being away from their parents. Some common school worries include:
For the first-time schoolers…
And back to school worries…
Look after the basics
Nobody copes well when they are tired, hungry or dehydrated. Anxious children often struggle to regularly eat and don’t get enough sleep. Make sure your child is eating nutritious food, drinking lots of water and getting regular rest. Build in a predictable routine, so that life is easier and more familiar for your child.
Make time to listen
Ask your child what is making them worried. Explain that it’s normal to have worries and concerns. Set up a regular time and place to talk. Some children feel most comfortable in a private space with your undivided attention such as right before bed, or over breakfast/dinner. Others prefer to keep it light by casually chatting through feelings while in the car, or while out taking a walk.
Validate their feelings
Resist the urge to dismiss their concerns – ‘Nothing to be worried about! You’ll be fine!’ Make time to really listen to them. By acknowledging your child’s feelings, they will feel more secure. Keep in mind that kids often want to be able to talk about something they’re upset about without expecting you to fix them. Your job is to hear them out and validate their feelings. You can do this by saying ‘I know that’s hard’ and give them the confidence that they can handle the situation.
Encourage them to problem solve
Encourage them to think of ways to solve their problem. For example, ‘If that happens, what could you do?’ or ‘Let’s think of some ways you could handle that.’ This gives you the opportunity to coach your child on how to cope with both real and imagined scary situations. You will also be giving your child the tools they need to cope with unexpected situations. Role play and get creative.
Focus on the positives
Move their attention away from the worries and towards the positives. Ask them ‘What are you most excited about on your first day of school?’ Most kids can think of something good, even if it’s just lunchtime or going home at the end of the day. By getting them focused on what they like and enjoy they will start to shift their attention away from their worries.
Manage your own emotions
It can be really nerve racking for parents to hand over the care and responsibility of their child to teachers. Make sure you are not passing on your own stress. The more confidence and calm you show, the more your child will see that there is no reason to be afraid. Be supportive yet firm. When saying goodbye in the morning, say it cheerfully and without hesitation. Deal with tears, tantrums and upset in a calm and relaxed manner. Take a deep breath and say ‘I can see that you are upset. Tell me what you are thinking about, so we can talk about it.” Most fears are common and simply require a little problem-solving, role-playing, planning, or support from the teacher.
If you want more help and support getting your child’s confidence super charged and topped up for school, book a family Skype coaching session by contacting me at email@example.com