Helping Anxious Children with Back to School

By Tracey Dowdy

“My stomach hurts.” “What if I don’t make any friends?” “I hate the bus.” “What if my teacher is mean?” “What if I can’t find my classroom?”

If those statements and questions sound familiar or if you hear them more than once in the days leading up to the start of school, your child may be feeling anxious or stressed. It’s important that both you and your child know it’s common to feel anxious before a big change and transitioning from the carefree days of summer to the structured days of Fall is one of the biggest challenges a young child can face.

As parents, our first reaction is to protect our kids and help them avoid anything that causes them pain. But the key to helping our kids with back to school jitters is to be sure we’re equipping them and not rescuing them. Learning to manage emotions – even the unpleasant ones – is part of growing up and the more tools we can give our kids the more successful and emotionally healthy they’ll be.

If your child is anxious, the first step is to acknowledge it. Just as in adults, anxiety presents itself in different ways. Your child may seem irritable, sad, depressed or afraid. The key is to be honest about it. Open the conversation with something as simple as “You’re not yourself today. Is there something you’d like to talk about?” Be mindful that you might need to wait for your opportunity; the middle of a meltdown may not be the best time to address the issue. My kids often opened up at bedtime when I was tucking them in. There was something about the intimacy and the peacefulness of bedtime that made them feel safe enough to share their thoughts or fears.

Help your child to understand the difference between feelings and facts. When I was younger, I was terrified of sharks coming out from under my bed and I couldn’t sleep with a hand or foot hanging over the side. To my knowledge there are no documented cases of sharks lurking in pink shag carpeting but that didn’t make my fear any less real. Your preschooler’s fear of the loud, smelly bus or your fifth grader’s fear that they won’t make any friends feel very real to them, so it’s important to teach your kids that feelings can trick us and make us think things are much worse than they are. Worrying about the bus doesn’t make it unsafe and fearing you won’t have friends doesn’t mean you’re going to be lonely.

Teaching the 3 C’s can help them get those anxious thoughts under control:

  • Catch Your Thoughts – Think of your thoughts as floating in a thought bubble above your head like in cartoons. Now grab one of those thoughts as they float by.
  • Collect Evidence – Now that you’ve caught one – let’s say, “I won’t have any friends” – find reasons why that thought is or isn’t true. “My friend Carla is the same age and we’ve been together since grade one.” (Positive) “It’s a bigger school with more classes so we’ll probably get split up.” (Negative) “I made friends with Carla the first day of grade one.” (Positive)
  • Challenge Your Thoughts – Think of it like having a debate team in your brain. Take all the evidence you collected and weigh the good against the bad.

Another effective way to manage anxiety is to teach your child to focus on “what is” not on “what if.” Tom Petty was right – the waiting is the hardest part. Much of our anxiety builds up while we anticipate what could happen and results in thinking “What if no one sits with me at lunch?” or “What if I give the wrong answer if I’m called on in class?” Instead, teach your child to practice mindfulness, focusing on the present. Simple breathing exercises can slow down those anxious thoughts and help your child relax.

Avoiding stressful situations makes anxiety worse in the long run. Instead, experts suggest practicing “laddering,” which breaks down worry into small manageable pieces by setting small, easily achievable goals. For example, if your child is afraid of riding the school bus, take a walk to the city bus stop and watch people get on and off. When your child feels comfortable, ride the bus to some place fun like a park. The idea is to help your child work their way up to facing the fear.

When you see anxious feelings taking over, teach your child to how de-escalate those anxious thoughts. Using a grounding exercise like naming ten things in the room around them, a deep yawn and stretch that interrupts rapid breathing, counting backwards from twenty, picturing a happy scene, or slowing down and focusing on slow, deep breaths all help to scale back the situation.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Roughly 8% of children and teens struggle with anxiety disorder, with girls making up more than half of that number. If your child can’t seem to manage those feelings and he or she is left feeling overwhelmed or helpless, talking to a counselor can help. Most counselors will use a family system approach and help you as a parent give the best possible support to your child.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Comments:

  1. Your style is unique compared to other people I’ve read stuff from.
    Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess
    I’ll just bookmark this site.

  2. constantly i used to read smaller content that also clear their motive,
    and that is also happening with this post which I am reading at this time.

  3. It’s actually very difficult in this full of activity life to listen news on Television, therefore I just
    use web for that reason, and take the newest information.

  4. Hello, Neat post. There is a problem along with your website in web explorer,
    might test this? IE nonetheless is the market chief and a good component
    of other folks will pass over your fantastic writing due to
    this problem.

  5. Hello! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I’d figured I’d
    ask. Would you be interested in trading links or
    maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa? My site discusses
    a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly
    benefit from each other. If you might be interested feel
    free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from
    you! Terrific blog by the way!

  6. I all the time used to study piece of writing in news papers but
    now as I am a user of net so from now I am using net for
    content, thanks to web.

  7. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally,
    it seems as though you relied on the video to
    make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you
    could be giving us something informative to read?

  8. Excellent article. Keep writing such kind of information on your site.
    Im really impressed by your site.
    Hello there, You have performed a great job. I will definitely digg it and individually suggest to my friends.
    I am confident they’ll be benefited from this site.

  9. With havin so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?

    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is
    popping it up all over the web without my authorization.
    Do you know any methods to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  10. Hello there! Do you know if they make any plugins
    to assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to
    get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good
    gains. If you know of any please share. Kudos!

  11. Hi to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from this site,
    and your views are good in support of new users.

  12. I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all webmasters and
    bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

  13. Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting
    a new project in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

  14. Hey excellent blog! Does running a blog such as this take a great
    deal of work? I have no knowledge of coding however I had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, should you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share.

    I know this is off subject nevertheless I just wanted to ask.
    Kudos!

  15. Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found
    that it is truly informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels.

    I’ll be grateful if you continue this in future.
    Numerous people will be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!

  16. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites?
    I have a blog based upon on the same information you discuss and would really like
    to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would value your work.
    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot
    me an e mail.

  17. If you are going for most excellent contents like I
    do, just pay a visit this web site all the time since it offers quality contents,
    thanks

  18. I get pleasure from, result in I discovered just
    what I used to be having a look for. You’ve ended my four day long hunt!
    God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  19. I do not even know how I finished up right here, however I believed this put up was once great.
    I do not understand who you might be but certainly
    you are going to a famous blogger should you aren’t already.

    Cheers!

  20. These are actually fantastic ideas in regarding blogging.
    You have touched some pleasant points here. Any way keep up wrinting.

  21. This design is spectacular! You definitely know how to keep a
    reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!)
    Great job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how
    you presented it. Too cool!

  22. I do not even know how I finished up right here, however I believed this post used
    to be great. I don’t realize who you’re however definitely you are going
    to a famous blogger for those who are not already. Cheers!

  23. Hola! I’ve been reading your weblog for a long
    time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a
    shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

  24. I constantly emailed this website post page to all my associates, as if like to read it afterward my friends will too.

  25. Howdy I am so happy I found your site, I really found you by
    error, while I was searching on Askjeeve for something
    else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a
    remarkable post and a all round thrilling blog (I
    also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read through
    it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the fantastic job.

  26. Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe
    guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My blog addresses a lot of the
    same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you happen to be interested feel free to send me an email.

    I look forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the way!

  27. Hi i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting
    anywhere, when i read this paragraph i thought i could also create comment due to this sensible article.

  28. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to
    be just what I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content for yourself?
    I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write related to here.

    Again, awesome blog!

  29. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find many
    of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for.
    Does one offer guest writers to write content available for you?
    I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write in relation to here.
    Again, awesome site!

  30. Hi, Neat post. There’s an issue along with your website in web explorer, may check this?
    IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a good portion of folks will pass
    over your great writing because of this problem.

  31. Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Looking through this post reminds me of my previous
    roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am
    going to send this information to him. Fairly certain he
    will have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!

  32. I’m extremely impressed with your writing
    skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you
    customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like
    this one these days.

  33. That is very attention-grabbing, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I have joined your feed and sit up for seeking more
    of your wonderful post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks

  34. Thank you for some other excellent article. The place else could anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect method
    of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the look for such info.

  35. Excellent pieces. Keep writing such kind of info on your site.
    Im really impressed by it.
    Hey there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I’ll definitely digg
    it and in my opinion suggest to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this site.

  36. Wow, this post is good, my younger sister is analyzing these kinds of things, so I
    am going to inform her.

  37. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was totally
    right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much
    time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  38. I visited several web pages but the audio quality for audio songs current at this site is truly wonderful.

  39. Hi there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform
    are you using for this website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because
    I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform.

    I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  40. Right here is the right webpage for everyone who really wants to understand this
    topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with
    you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa).

    You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject which has been written about
    for a long time. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!

  41. I used to be suggested this web site by my cousin.
    I’m no longer certain whether this submit is written by way
    of him as nobody else realize such exact about my problem.
    You are wonderful! Thank you!

  42. Definitely consider that which you stated. Your favourite
    reason seemed to be on the web the simplest factor to bear in mind of.
    I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that
    they just don’t realize about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the
    highest and also defined out the entire thing with no need
    side effect , other folks can take a signal. Will probably be
    again to get more. Thank you

  43. Appreciating the commitment you put into your website and in depth information you offer.
    It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed material.
    Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds
    to my Google account.

  44. Hi excellent blog! Does running a blog similar to this require a large amount of work?
    I have absolutely no expertise in coding however
    I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future.
    Anyhow, should you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners please share.
    I understand this is off topic but I simply wanted to ask.
    Thanks!

  45. Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite
    justification seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of.
    I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think
    about worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to
    hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having
    side effect , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more.
    Thanks

  46. Today, I went to the beach with my kids.
    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and
    said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell
    to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but
    I had to tell someone!

  47. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of
    any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and
    was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

  48. Hi, I do think your site could possibly be having internet browser compatibility issues.
    Whenever I look at your site in Safari, it looks fine but
    when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues.
    I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that,
    wonderful site!

  49. whoah this blog is magnificent i really like reading your articles.
    Keep up the good work! You know, many people are hunting around for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  50. Hi there everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this website, and article is actually fruitful in favor
    of me, keep up posting such articles or reviews.

  51. You are so cool! I do not think I have read anything
    like this before. So great to find somebody with unique thoughts on this topic.
    Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up.
    This web site is something that is needed on the internet,
    someone with a little originality!

  52. What i do not understood is in truth how you
    are now not actually a lot more well-favored than you might be now.

    You’re so intelligent. You know thus considerably when it comes to this topic, made me in my
    view imagine it from so many numerous angles.
    Its like women and men are not fascinated except it is one thing to do with Girl gaga!
    Your personal stuffs outstanding. At all times care for it up!

  53. Please let me know if you’re looking for a
    article writer for your site. You have some really
    great posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take
    some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some material for your
    blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail
    if interested. Kudos!

  54. I got this web site from my buddy who told me regarding this web site and now this time I am browsing this web site and reading very informative posts
    at this place.

  55. Thanks , I have just been looking for info about this topic for ages and yours
    is the greatest I’ve came upon till now. But, what about the bottom line?
    Are you certain about the supply?

  56. I am really enjoying the theme/design of your website.
    Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues?
    A small number of my blog readers have complained about my blog not
    working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome.

    Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

  57. Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and effort to
    put this article together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both
    reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still
    worth it!

  58. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to
    browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy
    the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look
    when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, excellent site!

  59. My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from
    PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on numerous
    websites for about a year and am worried about switching to another platform.
    I have heard very good things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  60. Very good blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little
    lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many
    choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any suggestions?

    Bless you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *