The last few weeks leading up to a new school year can often be challenging for the family. For our younger children, they might come to us in tears protesting – and declaring – between sobs that they are not ready for school. For the older ones, they might experience mood swings and lash out in irritation. Anxiety tends to creep up on our children as they anticipate a new school year ridden with possible changes and many unknowns.
As parents and caregivers, these are some back to school tips and strategies that you can try as a family:
Back to school Tips: #1 – Speak to your child
Take the time to talk to the children and help them identify possible concerns. Acknowledge their worries and help them come up with coping methods to alleviate their fears.
For example, if they anticipate challenges in coping with homework and that doing what they love will be sacrificed, come up with a plan that gives structure to a day and let them look forward to playtime or family bonding time when homework is done. Assure them that there will be a time to relax and enjoy doing the things they like.
If it is the fear of failure, assure them that the family will support them through the learning process and they will not be measured against their results. Often times, children might not feel instant relief but just being able to talk through their feelings will do them a world of good.
As parents, we should not dismiss their anxious feelings. Better yet, share personal anxieties if any when going through transitions while growing up and how you overcame them, so they do not feel alone in their fears. Offer them hope that with everyone’s love and support, the new school year need not be frightening.
Back to school Tips: #2 – Work with the school
Make the effort to join a parent support group or forge relationships with our children’s school teachers or counsellors. Our children come into contact with the teachers and counsellors on a daily basis and they can provide valuable insight into possible sources of stress for our children.
Take the opportunity to share with the teachers too as to what is being done at home so that efforts are coordinated when children are helped. This would ensure a consistent approach to managing the children’s anxiety.
Back to school Tips: #3 – Be positive and optimistic
Parents need to manage personal worries. Parental anxiety can be infectious. Children often mirror their parents’ responses. Thus, it is imperative that we exercise self-control and remain positive in all things. Instead of viewing a child’s anxiety as a problem, turn it into a teachable moment and impart coping mechanisms that can help carry them through life.
Back to school Tips: #4 – Learn coping mechanisms
Coping with anxiety might not be instinctive for many of us. As such, it benefits the children greatly when parents make the effort to learn to help them manage stress and anxiety. Make time to read books, attend talks and workshops to better understand childhood anxieties and how we can help them cope with school better. It is also empowering to meet with other parents who are facing similar challenges with their children.
Back to school Tips: #5 – Spend time together
Quality time spent with children brings great comfort to them. Kids feel affirmed knowing that they matter enough as parents carve out time to be with them. An anxious child would be in need of more attention and affection on a daily basis. Quality time can include doing the things they love together with them and providing a listening ear.
Ushering in the new school year can bring with it challenges. But with intentional effort on parents’ part, children will be able to better manage their anxieties and fears while acquiring coping skills that they will take them through life.
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Written by Elvira Tan