By Tracey Dowdy
Since this will be a school year like no other for many families, some are facing back to school jitters like never before. Even students who anticipated a return to routine and their friends with a side of education are anxious about how the 2020-21 year will unfold.
One of the keys is to remember your children are listening and observing you, and they often pick up on more than we realize. Don’t feel as though you need to hide your concerns or worry if they see you are disappointed and a little anxious too – this normalizes their fear. Instead, take a “We’ll get through this together,” approach. Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers, but you’re going to support them every step of the way.
Just as you would in a traditional school year, ease back into your routine in the weeks before school starts and take the time to address your child’s questions and concerns. Reading together is an invaluable tool in uncovering what’s bothering them in a non-confrontational way. These books can help start those conversations and allay some of their fears.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (Pre-K–2) Wemberly is a mouse who worries about everything like shrinking in the bathtub or spilling her juice, but her biggest fear is the first day of school. Your little one will relate to Wemberly’s fears and learn with her as she overcomes them.
The I’m Not Scared Book by Todd Parr (Pre-K–2) Parr’s signature style of humor and heart shine in this little book that addresses common childhood fears while helping kids find a solution. The examples cover everything from dogs to the monsters under the bed, and family conflict. “Sometimes I’m scared when my family argues. I’m not scared when we hug and say ‘I’m sorry.’”
Is a Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz (Pre-K–2) Like Parr, the authors address common childhood fears with humor and imagination. Through over the top hypothetical situations, the book teaches kids to find perspective and utilize creative problem-solving.
When My Worries Get Too Big: A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live with Anxiety by Kari Dunn Buron (K–3) Though it was written to help children on the autism spectrum identify and manage their emotions, every child can benefit from its self-calming strategies.
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What-to-Do Guides for Kids) by Dawn Huebner (Grades 1-6) What to Do When You Worry Too Much employs the cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT) most often used to treat anxiety. The book is practical, encouraging, easy to read, and will give your child the skills they need to manage their anxiety.
What to Do When You’re Scared and Worried: A Guide for Kids by James J. Crist (Grades 4–7) Divided into two parts – “Getting to Know your Fears and Worries,” and “Getting Help for Hard to Handle Problems,” the book address a spectrum of fears from spiders to panic attacks. Crist helps children identify what’s behind their anxiety, practice Fear Chasers and Worry Erasers, and encourages them to ask for help if the fear is bigger than they can manage on their own.
My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic by Michael A. Tompkins and Katherine Martinez (Grades 7 and up) Tompkins and Martinez show teens how to take control of their anxiety through proven cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT), empowering them to manage and work through their emotions. They include chapters focusing on the importance of proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and even addresses the possible need for medication.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.