Back to School Anxiety

How To Ease Back-To-School Anxiety

Normalize and Validate Feelings
    • Let your child know that most kids feel anxious the day/night before school, that’s normal --you can share that you used to feel worried too.
    • If you child struggled (academically, socially or behaviorally) last school year, acknowledge that fact but also acknowledge some of the positives of the last school year. 
    • ”Last year was definitely mixed. You grades were great but some of the kids were not so nice.” 
    • “You did great in science and English but math was really challenging.”
    • Ask your child what his specific worry is. If your child is unsure why he is anxious, share some common reasons that students worry (this will often elicit a response).

Common worries are:
                  • The teacher might be mean
                  • No one I know is in my class
                  • Other kids will be cliquish
                  • I won’t have anyone to sit with at lunch
                  • The work will be hard and I might fail
                  • I won’t be be able to find my classroom and the late bell will ring
                  • I won’t be able to quickly open my locker
                  • No one will talk to me
                  • Someone might bully me
                  • The kids on the bus will be mean

  Shift into Problem Solving Mode 
             Cultivate a“We’re in this Together” Environment

    • For Each worry your child mentions ask:
      • What’s the worst that could happen?
        • Come up with a possible plan to deal with each worst case scenario 
      • What’s the best that could happen? 
      • What will probably happen?

  Explain Why This Year Will Be Different

    • Highlight any changes that have been made, (lighter caseload, your child is slated to receive classroom/testing accommodations and/or modifications, extra academic (reading, math, resource room) support, there is a different mix of children in this class, etc.). 
    •  If nothing has formally changed talk about ways you and your child can be proactive. (see suggestions below)

  Limit School Conversations-Don’t Allow Obsessing

    • The goal is to project that things are under control
    • There is a plan in place and nothing to worry about
    • Briefly repeat the plan and then distract your child with an activity he enjoys.

  Remember You Don’t Need to Have the Perfect Solution;
   You Just Need a Plan

  Proactive Plan Suggestions

  For Social Issues
    •  Get your child speaking to  classmates within the first day or two of school. The longer he waits to break the ice, the harder it will become. 
    • Script you child and role-play  2 -3 casual, brief conversations your child can have with another student on the first day or two of school. (“Did you have a good summer?” What (video games, sports) are you into in?). Role-play these same conversations a few times.
    • Consider offering a small reward for each conversation you child has with a new classmate. Anxious children may want to reach out but in the moment it’s more tempting to remain quietly comfortable. 

  For Academic/Behavioral Issues

    • Periodic checking ins with the teacher, (even if the teacher does not reach out to you), regarding your child’s classwork, socialization and in-school behaviors). The end of the second week of school is a good time to do an initial reach out. 
    • Communication with the teacher gives a message to your child that all three of you are a team and it helps the teacher to feel supported.
    • No electronics until homework is completed and checked.
    • Parents--will check homework, agenda books, online parent portals, etc. to ensure all work is being completed and that grades are up to par.
    • Spend time going over your child's work and checking for understanding.
    • Insist he/she attends extra help sessions at school.
    • Monitor the way your child studies. Reading through class notes, for most children, is not the most effective way to study.
    • Quiz your child before a test.
    • Help organize your child (plan out short and long-range assignments on a calendar). 
    • If your child is having behavioral issues, ask for a functional behavior analysis to be done.
    • Connect school behavior to home rewards.
    • If your child is struggling, take action quickly. This could include:
      • Talking with the teacher/counselor/principal to develop a plan
      • Arranging for tutoring
      • Requesting the school conduct a formal evaluation of your child. 

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