The start to school is just around the corner and we are all full of questions. Will we have effective protocols to send our kids to school? Will most of the staff be vaccinated by the time school starts? How many outbreaks will we observe?
Now think how the kids must be feeling… School has been a place of routine, and predictability, instead kids and parents have had to juggle an unprecedented variety of issues and ambiguity this school year.
The start of school is typically a time for routines and connecting with friends and teachers. However, for a lot of kids, it is also a time of anxiety. This year will, once again, look different for most of us. It will be unpredictable in many ways, yet we still must create a space for safety and comfort for the kids going back to school.
We understand that this is a challenging time for parents, so we got together with our life coaches and therapists to develop an in-depth list of the most effective techniques for getting back to school for families.
We are a group of highly experienced therapists and life coaches, if you or someone that you know needs a therapist, please reach out and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are available to talk.
Check yourself and make sure that you are not passing your stress on to your kids
Parenting feels stressful right now and our kids are watching. It is essential to check in with yourself and make sure that if you are feeling enormous amounts of stress that you are addressing it, through meditation, exercise, therapy, or lifestyle adjustments.
Modeling positive ways of dealing with stress is essential as this informs your child what it looks like to have stress as well as how to deal with it. Encouraging them to talk about it and using exercise to relieve the physical effects of stress can be helpful. Do a short exercise or stretching routine with them in the morning before they head off and before you start your work day!
Working with a life coach or therapist can also be helpful in resolving deeper issues that may be present and causing anxiety. A therapist can also offer coping techniques to help you and your child reduce anxiety.
Make sure to listen to your child’s concerns.
Anxiety in children can show up in different ways. You might see signs of anxiety in your child if they are:
– Expressing that they have a sore tummy
– Not eating meals
– Shying away from activities that they would usually enjoy
– Experiencing sleeplessness
It is essential to keep in mind that some anxiety is actually normal in children when their routine is undergoing change, such as a return to school. However, stress can become a problem when it goes on for a long time and is unchecked.
The first step to getting to the bottom of the issue is to talk
Reach out to your child and see how they are feeling. If they are willing to talk to you about what may be bothering them, reassure them that what they are going through is normal and that it is okay to feel nervous about school and doing new things.
If your child cannot share their feelings with you, simply letting them know that you are available for them is a great way to connect to them. Having them know that you are there to talk when they are ready is essential for them to know.
Reading books that share stories about people with anxiety is a great ice breaker. It shows them how anxiety can manifest in different ways and how to cope with it. These practices can also kickstart some conversations about how they are feeling.
Talk about the pandemic.
The pandemic has caused chaos in all of our lives; our kids have also experienced a loss of their routines and connections to friends and teachers. Taking the time to acknowledge this is very helpful to their experience.
Ask them open-ended questions about how they feel and how the pandemic has impacted them to understand what they have gone through and learn whether their anxiety is connected to what they have experienced through the pandemic.
Suppose you find that your child has a lot of anxiety surrounding the pandemic. In that case, you can narrow in on addressing their anxiety by teaching them about the virus, focusing on the success stories like the development of the vaccine or how society came together to help one another.
A great source of stress for kids these days can be what to talk about with their friends or new classmates. The pandemic has robbed so many children of activities and experiences that they would otherwise be able to share with others, and use to relate and connect with each other over. Brainstorm some conversation topics together that will help your child feel more comfortable in social situations. Google “conversation topics for kids” if you find that you are stuck.
How to help kids find coping techniques for anxiety:
Use understanding and supportive language:
When you engage your child, ensure that you are speaking to them from a place of empathy, understanding, and patience. It can be tiring to be the emotional strength for your child, so watch that you reach out to your child when you have the dynamic space.
When engaging in a conversation, some helpful phrases are:
“I am here for you.”
“How can I help?”
“Together, we can work on this. We’re a great team.”
“I love you; do you want a hug?”
In some cases, you will find that your child does not want to talk, which is ok. It is better not to force conversation. Sometimes conversations take time to develop. The most important thing is that your child knows that you are there for them when they are ready.
It is important that you ensure that your child is getting enough sleep during times of stress and anxiety. Anxiety can be very tiring, and insufficient sleep can lead to a difficult time managing feelings with school, friends, activities, etc.
Check to make sure that your child is going to bed at a good time and has a room that caters to healthy sleep: cool temperature, minimal light, a bed that is not overwhelmed with toys. Make adjustments to these standards as needed and for kids 5-12 years of age, try for 9-12 hours of sleep.
If you find that your child is suffering from bad sleep for more than a few days, it may be a sign that you need support from a therapist. Working with a therapist can be highly beneficial when seeking to acquire coping skills and finding ways to manage anxiety.
Read books together about anxiety:
Reading together is an intimate activity that naturally creates a space to talk and share. It can offer a gentle introduction to a topic that may otherwise be difficult to discuss.
Making use of other’s stories can be helpful to illustrate the characteristics of anxiety and how it may look in different situations. This can also foster insight into how others may react to anxiety-fueled situations and what they may have done to cope with their anxiety.
You can use the story that you read together as a tool to prompt conversations. You can ask questions such as: “How do you think the character feels?” “Have you ever felt like this?”. These inquiries will offer you insights into how your child might be feeling and what you can do.
An excellent tool for kids and adults that deal with anxiety is journaling. Pulling thoughts, worries, and stories out of our heads is excellent therapy and an invaluable coping instrument when life gets complicated. It is also an excellent tool for reflection.
We can learn a lot about ourselves when we journal. Reading back on experiences that we have had to endure and live through can be helpful when making decisions and working through complex issues.
To get started, you can offer some starter topics like:
– “What brings you joy?”
– “What was your greatest fear, and how did you conquer it?”
– “Describe the place that you feel happiest. “
Prepare and plan.
You can also prepare for the transition back to school in a few ways. You can start to implement morning routines that you would use during the school year. Wake up times, morning time readiness, preparing lunch and snacks are examples of some such routines. If your child is responsible for specific tasks, they can start to do them now.
Walking to the school and revisiting the space is essential. Playing in the play structure or simply walking the dog or biking to and from school helps prepare your child for the experience of being there once school is on. Being at the school offers the child the experience of what they would feel like when they go to school. Starting up a conversation can also happen when at school and walking throughout.
Lastly, reaching out to the staff and letting them know of any concerns or worries you may have is useful. Having the staff understand how your child is doing will help your child as well as their teachers prepare for the transition. You can also inform staff of tools that are working for your family in order to assist them in their task of teaching.
It is important to remember that it is hard to support a person during anxious episodes and it can feel upsetting, so be gentle with yourself. The good news is that anxiety does not last forever and once you can find coping techniques, the effects of anxiety will start to feel more manageable.
If you need to work with an expert and need some advice, we are always available for a consultation. Please reach out to us anytime at email@example.com