How to handle your child’s back‐to‐school worries

Here you can get information about How to Handle Your Child’s Back‐to‐School Worries. It happens every year. Summer involves an in depth and therefore the big yellow school bus arrives in your neighborhood. A new academic year may be a common stressor for both parents and children.

While your own anxiety may disappear once supplies are purchased and a routine is established, your child may require more coping skills to ease their worries. Help your child ease anxiety and feel more confident about going back to high school by planning ahead to affect the foremost common stressors, talking to your child about anxiety, and teaching effective coping skills.

Table of Contents

Look for general symptoms of anxiety

Ask your kids how they’re feeling about going back to high school, and keep an eye fixed out for headaches, stomachaches, sleeping troubles, persistent “what if” questions, crankiness, excessive concern about very distant events, problems focusing on schoolwork and protracted concerns that aren’t alleviated by logical explanations. An example of this could be worrying that there has been no progress in fighting the pandemic, despite widespread information about the event of effective vaccines and better treatments.

What’s tricky, of course, is that any of those can potentially be a sign of the many problems, so take a second step. Lecture your kids about their thoughts may assist you unravel whether they’re feeling anxious.

Encourage activities that reduce anxiety

Playing outside, twiddling with friends, or maybe just “hanging out” are often powerful ways to scale back negative feelings. Outdoors, people often feel more relaxed – the antithesis of anxiety. Playing in an unstructured way – that’s, without someone else telling them what or the way to play – allows kids to figure through their feelings successfully and reduce anxiety.

Help your kids understand the pandemic

Look for books and activities which will educate kids about the pandemic and post-pandemic life to assist them feel like they understand what’s happening around them. Children might not understand what a vaccine is, for example, and the way it can protect against disease. People who know more about cataclysmic events or relevant facts typically feel less helpless, and children are not any exception. There are several age-appropriate books that use pictures and humor to elucidate to kids what’s happening.

Focus on family activities

The emotional connection that children have with their families is their psychological anchor during difficult times. At a time when such a lot of everyday life has changed, spending time with family are often an antidote for uncertainty. Take a walk or a hike together, eat dinner together, play board games.

Embrace distraction

Distraction isn’t a cure for anxiety, but it can diminish its intensity and help sufferers think more clearly about the source of their worries. When children are feeling very anxious, it’s fine to speak to them about how watching an engaging program, or reading a funny book, can help them feel calmer.

Get professional help when needed

If your child’s anxiety is interfering with sleep, eating, socializing or school attendance, and it persists beyond a couple of days, it’s an honest idea to call your pediatrician or family doctor and report what’s happening. Medical professionals who work with children are seeing anxiety skyrocket among kids, and that they skills to urge your child the required help.
As with any back-to-school season, you’ll end up buying binders and backpacks. This year in particular, though, children and their anxiety may have more of a focus. Practicing simple prevention and intervening when necessary can get your kids off to an excellent school year.

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worries

It’s that time of year again! The return to school always brings a mix of emotions: excitement about the new year, worry about changes in routine, apprehension for new experiences, sadness with the end of summer, and stress around feeling prepared. This fall brings the added layer of uncertainty and concern for safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a potential risk to our communities. For many, anxiety and stress is more palpable, and understandably so.

Parents face an especially big challenge of not only managing their uncertainty but also that of their school-bound child. Experts in child and adolescent anxiety and mood disorders recommend the following techniques for supporting kids who may feel anxious or hesitant during the return to in-person learning.

  • Validation shows that you hear your child and understand what they’re going through. As a parent you may not feel first-hand what your child is experiencing, but acknowledging that they are going through something difficult can be a powerful tool to helping your child cope. Statements like “I see this is really hard for you.” and “I can imagine why you feel nervous!” are great starts! Pro-tip: this tool can be used with any emotion.
  • Problem-solving fixable worries: Many kids’ worries are based in the future and about uncontrollable things, such as a peer being upset with them. But some worries may have a solution, and for fixable worries parents can use problem solving. This teaches children how to cope and boosts their self-esteem! Start by asking your child what their specific worries are (such as not knowing anyone in class or not being able to find their locker) and then ask them how they’d like to fix it. Remember, you can make suggestions if they’re stuck (like setting up a playdate ahead of time or taking a tour of the school) but avoid problem-solving for them.
  • Prepare a cope ahead kit: Coping ahead reduces anxiety and stress. You and your child can create a coping kit that can travel to and from school with them. A fidget toy, small snack, note from a parent or friend, and a photo are all great coping kit items! Ask your child what would help them feel better when they’re upset and add it to their coping bag. Parents can prepare a cope ahead plan for themselves also, acknowledging that all of our feelings are normal and ok right now. Preparing to have some uncomfortable feelings and knowing how you will handle your own stress while also supporting your child can help make the situation more manageable in the moment.

The return to school can be an exciting and stressful time, and fall 2021 is no exception. We hope these tools will be helpful to you and your family during the transition back to in-person learning!

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worries

Depending on where you live, school has been back in session now for a month or two. Maybe it already seems like ages ago that you snapped that cute photo of your child holding a sign announcing their new grade and teacher’s name.

By this point in the year, many children are already fully immersed in standardized testing practice, project deadlines, extracurricular activities, and other school happenings that can be both exciting and stressful. Ok…maybe more stressful, and less exciting. Possibly very stressful. Today, let’s talk about what you can do when Monday mornings have become a source of dread. Here are 3 ways to help your child manage school anxiety!

Anxiety About Going to School…In October?

I see many kids begin to struggle with school anxiety in late fall. By this point in the year, the novelty of being back at school has worn off, and the daily routine has fully set in. Big class projects and tests are in full swing. Even kids who were a little excited to return to school in September may be dreading it by October or November.

While it’s normal for most children to feel hesitant to get on the school bus occasionally, or to have a tough time waking up in the morning, some children’s worries about going back to school become so overwhelming that it interferes with their attendance in class. If you’re wondering whether your child’s anxiety about school has reached a level where therapy might be helpful, here are a few questions to consider:

How often is the anxiety happening? For example, is it just on Monday mornings following a weekend away, or is it becoming an everyday occurrence?

Is your child complaining of physical symptoms, like headaches, stomach aches, or vomiting, that only seem to occur on school days?

Is your child’s anxiety response getting stronger or weaker as the school year progresses?

Have your child’s worries escalated to the point that tantrums or intense fearfulness are keeping him from being able to attend class?

If you found yourself answering “yes” to a couple of these questions, you are not alone! School is an extremely important, formative part of a child’s life, but the day-to-day experience of attending school can be stressful even for bright, resilient children. The increased focus on standardized testing and the added peer pressure of social media don’t make the experience any easier. Keep reading for a few tips on how to handle school anxiety.

School Anxiety Tip #1: Teach Relaxation Skills for Back-to-School Stress

Simple techniques that use the breath or senses to soothe anxiety can be used almost anywhere, and are easy enough that even young children can master them. Teaching your child to take slow, deep belly breaths (called diaphragmatic breathing) can be helpful, as well as helping your child to practice tensing and relaxing the muscles of the body, starting at the head and moving down toward the feet (called progressive muscle relaxation). It’s best to practice these skills repeatedly while the child is feeling calm. That way, the next time she is feeling anxious or panicked, she knows just what to do.

If these relaxation techniques work well for your child and you’d like to learn more of them, check out my coping skills courses for kids. These educational courses give kids tools they can use right away to manage big feelings like anxiety, anger, and stress. They also include a guide for parents, so you can help your child make the most of their coping skills at home.

School Anxiety Tip #2: Read Books that Tackle School-Related Worries

In therapy-speak, we refer to using books in the counseling process as bibliotherapy. Reading a book with your child can be a great way to gently open up a conversation about a topic. Children may feel less nervous or threatened talking about their school worries when the conversation is focused on a fictional character, rather than themselves. A good story can add some much-needed humor to a scary situation, while also helping children feel less alone with their fears.

Two of my favorite books about school for young children are School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, which tells the story of a first day in Kindergarten from the perspective of a school building, and The Pigeon HAS to Go to School, from Mo Willem’s popular series for kids. Neither one feels overly “therapy-y”, but the plotlines are reassuring and empowering. They’re interesting enough stories that kids stay emotionally invested throughout.

School Anxiety Tip #3: Keep Class Attendance Consistent (Even When It’s Hard)

This is the hardest advice to follow, but it might be the most important! When a child is in extreme distress about attending school, it is very tempting to diffuse the situation by allowing her to stay home and relax. Taking an occasional mental health day is not likely to cause problems for most children. However, for kids with severe school anxiety, taking days off is virtually guaranteed to make anxiety worse over time.

By avoiding the anxiety-provoking situation, we are alleviating a child’s fears for the moment, but also sending a message to the child’s anxiety response that school is worth being afraid of. The next day, the child may find it is even more difficult to get back to class. Helping children face their fears is the best way to combat anxiety about going back to school.

Middle School Is Tough, But Your Child Is Tougher. Therapy Can Help With Back-to-School Anxiety!

If you’d like more information on how to support a child struggling with back-to-school anxiety, feel free to reach out to me. Counseling that utilizes play therapy and cognitive-behavioral techniques can be a big help in reducing anxiety about school for children who are really struggling. You can reach me directly by filling out this form to inquire about how therapy might be helpful for your child. I can help families living in North Carolina, New York, or Florida through online therapy.

Not living in one of those states, or not ready for counseling? For some kids, learning effective and easy-to-use coping skills can be enough to break the cycle of back-to-school anxiety. My educational course, Worry Free Tweens, is designed especially to help middle school or late elementary-aged kids learn how to overcome anxiety. Kids walk away from the course with a better understanding of how anxiety works, and how they can control their worries—both now and as they grow up.

Coping with Back to School Anxiety

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worries

Anxious feelings are normal and expected in children and teens returning to school, changing schools, or for first-timers starting kindergarten. This transition can be stressful and disruptive for the entire family.

In the days leading up to school, your anxious child may cling, cry, have temper tantrums, complain of headaches or stomach pains, withdraw, plead or bargain, and become irritable or angry.

Worries are Common. Anxious children and teens worry about many different school-related issues, such as teachers, friends, fitting in, and/or being away from their parents. Some common worries include:

  • Who will be my new teacher and what if s/he is mean?
  • Will any of my friends be in my class?
  • Are my clothes OK?
  • Will I look stupid?
  • Who will I sit with at lunch?
  • What if I miss the bus?
  • What if math is too hard for me?
  • I can’t remember anything I learned last year!
  • What if something bad happens to mom or dad while I am at school?

Although it is normal for your child to have worries, it is crucial to have your child attend school. Skipping school will only increase your child’s fears because s/he never gets a chance to find out if his/her worries are valid. Furthermore, when children and teens stay home because of anxiety, they miss:

  • Valuable opportunities to develop and practice social skills
  • Important chances for success and mastery
  • Being acknowledged and praised for talents
  • Fostering close friendships with classmates
  • Learning basic skills like reading, writing, and mathematics

5 Steps To Deal With Back-to-School Worries

Step 1 Take care of the basics:

Ensure your child is getting enough sleep, eating regular meals and healthy snacks and has daily exercise. When your child’s mind and body are nourished, tackling school worries is easier. Plus, your child will be more likely to listen to you, and cope better when you insist on school attendance, if s/he has had a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast.

Step 2 Provide empathy:

Listen to your child’s concerns. What is s/he worried about? Why does s/he expect that to happen? Let your child share his/her fears and talk about what’s on his/her mind. There may be good opportunities to simply listen to your child when you are in the car, standing in line at the store, at bath-time or during dinner. For some kids and teens this “casual” method of talking feels less intense and makes it easier for them to express themselves. For others, a private time with undivided attention feels better.

Step 3 Problem solve:

Once you know what’s bothering your child, you can start to develop a coping plan. Anxious youth are often poor problem solvers and doubt their ability to cope. Addressing your child’s fear head on, by creating an active plan with concrete solutions, will significantly reduce the worry. For example, “If (the worst) happens, what could you do?” or “Let’s think of some ways you could handle that situation.” This gives you the opportunity to coach your child on how to cope with (and interpret) both real and imagined scary situations.

Step 4 Focus on the positive aspects:

Once you have an understanding of what your child is afraid of, and a coping plan to address these fears, you can encourage your child to re-direct attention away from the worries towards the positives. Ask your child, “What are three things that you are most excited about on your first day of school?” Most kids can think of something good, even if it’s just eating a special snack or going home at the end of the day. Chances are the fun aspects are simply getting overlooked by repetitive worries.

Step 5 Pay attention to your own behavior:

For parents of younger children or children starting at a new school, it can be anxiety-provoking for parents to hand over care and responsibility of their child to teachers. Children take cues from their parents, so the more confidence and calm you can model, the more your child will believe s/he can handle this new hurdle. Be supportive yet firm. When saying goodbye in the morning, say it cheerfully – once! Ensure you don’t reward your child’s protests, crying, or tantrums by allowing him/her to stay home. Instead, in a calm tone, say: “I can see that going to school is making you scared, but you still have to go. Tell me what you are worried about, so we can talk about it.”

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worries

A mum has sewn 'kisses' into her son's jumper to help him overcome his back to school anxiety.

Five-year-old Davey Gurnett, from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, returned to primary school with two navy crosses on the sleeve of his red school jumper as he began his first week in Year 1.

Mum Kat Gurnett, 35, told her son that if he started to miss his family he could kiss or rub the sewn on kisses and it would "send a little kiss back home".

The mum-of-two has since shared her thoughtful idea with other parents on social media to help out other children who are returning to school after the summer holidays.

"It’s a very emotional time," Gurnett explains. "Some kids find it easy, walk in and don’t look back, but some find it a bit more difficult which is heartbreaking for the parent."

Having spotted some suggestions online about how other parents were easing their child's anxiety, Gurnett hit upon her sewn 'kisses' idea.

"Some were giving their kids bracelets but I didn't want to give Davey anything he could lose because he could then spend the day even more upset," she explained.

"I explained to him that if he missed us at all he could kiss, rub or hug the kisses and it would send a little kiss to us.

"When I picked him up from school he said 'Did you feel my kisses Mummy?' so it has worked wonders."

As well as helping ease her son's anxiety, Gurnett says the 'kisses' gave her peace of mind too.

"It was as much for me as it was for him," she explains.

"I felt better knowing he had that to comfort him.

"Davey has had some health issues so going back to school was a big deal for us both."

How to ease back to school anxiety

While both parents and children will typically be feeling a little apprehensive around this time of year Dr Amanda Gummer, child research psychologist and founder of the Good Play Guide. www.goodplayguide.com says this might be exasperated this year thanks to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

"It’s common to experience back to school anxiety after a long break, however the last year in and out of lockdown has meant that children’s routines have been more disrupted than ever before," she explains.

While your child might not necessarily understand that they are feeling anxious, Dr Gummer says there are a few signs you can look out for including them finding it hard to concentrate, waking in the night, crying or being more clingy than usual, feeling tense or complaining of being unwell.

"Of course, if symptoms don’t go away you may want to speak to your GP but there are some tips you can try, to help ease their anxiety during these trying times."

Talk to your child about their anxieties about going back to school

Allow plenty of time and opportunities for your child to talk about his or her concerns and ask questions.

"Actively listen to fears or worries and acknowledge them, so your child knows that their feelings matter and you are always there to lend an ear," Dr Gummer suggests.

Try to stay positive and calm when discussing your child’s return to school and try to avoid sharing your own anxieties with them. "Your child will pick up on your emotions and this may affect how they feel themselves, so seeing you being confident and calm can help them to feel more confident themselves," she adds.

Watch: Ministers face difficult decision on whether to overrule JCVI's finding on vaccinating children.

Help familiarise your child with their new routine

Many of us have got out of regular routines, perhaps with later bedtimes and mealtimes (and lots of snacks in between).

"If possible, start to readjust your day back to the ‘school time’ routine at least a week before, moving everything by a few minutes or so each day so the new routine isn’t such a drastic change," she suggests.

If your child has already returned, parenting expert Leon Hady founder of www.guideeducation.co.uk suggests reading through the information sent by the school together within the first couple of days back.

"This can help mentally prepare your child to understand the expectations for the new school year," he explains.

"Engaging in conversation about the first couple of days back will give them the opportunity to share their feelings and importantly, it will allow you to help your child realise that these feelings are completely normal.”

Give your child tools to handle back to school anxiety

Mindfulness techniques can be very useful for managing anxious thoughts and feelings. "For example, you could teach your child Square Breathing: breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four – as long as needed to calm down," Dr Gummer suggests.

"Learning methods like this means your child can cope with their emotions even when they are alone."

Reframe their worries

According to Hady, asking questions surrounding what your child is most looking forward to, which friends they want to get in touch with before the first day back, and what their concerns might be about returning are key in helping to understand how you may be able to lend support.

"Writing or listing all of the positives is a great way to remind children of the many things they may enjoy about school," he adds.

"Additionally, writing down any concerns and finding solutions to them together or ways to reframe these negative thoughts can give real reassurance to your child and a real insight to you into their thoughts and feelings."

Accept that some anxiety is to be expected

It is an unusual time and some anxiety is to be expected when changing the routine after a year in and out of lockdown.

"While it may take some time for them to adjust, with your support, they will be able handle any anxieties they may have," Dr Gummer says.

"Talking to your child about their worries and what they can expect on their return to school, rehearsing the routine and giving them some strategies to process and communicate their emotions are all ways that you can turn this experience into a learning opportunity – and this will build their resilience for the future too."

The backpacks are packed and the indoor shoes have been labeled. Back to school season is here. But sometimes starting a new school year can be more complicated than picking out new pencil cases and lunch boxes.

The start of school can result in anxiety, fresh logistical issues and burnout—for all parties. Back to school stress relief anyone? But just like the kiddos who will soon be studying for tests, a little preparation ahead of time on our part can help set everyone up for back to school success.

We talked to teachers about what common back to school struggles students face each September and how parents can help. (Don’t worry—there’s no pop quiz at the end!) Here they are:

1. Separation anxiety

For first-timers entering kindergarten and even older kids who’ve had tough summers, leaving mom or dad behind to go off to school can be scary and sad.

How to deal: If you suspect your child will suffer separation anxiety when they go to school this year, the Mayo Clinic recommends spending time apart before summer ends and touring the school together before the big day.

2. Dealing with all those unknowns

General anxiety can be just as stressful as separation anxiety. According to Monica Goncalves, a New Jersey State Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2017, September brings a lot of unknowns for kids. “Especially for the younger grades, I find, they get a little restless because they don’t know what’s next,” Goncalves says. “Parents just need to be very aware that students are going to be feeling anxious.”

How to deal: If you suspect your child is feeling anxious, talk about what’s going on in their back-to-school transition. If they are nervous about a new teacher, classroom or school, you may be able to give them an early introduction or tour to ease some of that anxiety before the first day of classes.

3. When your child’s social group changes

Maybe your child is changing schools this year. Or maybe they’re in the same school, but their BFF moved. Whatever the situation, September brings changes to a child’s social scene—and a bad start can lead to a rough grade-long experience.

“Parents need to be aware of the new friendships that will be formed, and let them grow,” says Goncalves. “But keep an eye on them to a certain degree just to see if they are healthy relationships.”

How to deal: If a friendship doesn’t seem healthy, talk to your child about why you’re concerned, but don’t blame their new friend. If a child understands what a healthy friendship looks like and why it benefits them, they’ll be more likely to seek those out and avoid friendships that could hurt them.

4. Becoming over-scheduled

According to Wisconsin teacher Amy Rosno, time management is one of the biggest struggles kids face in September. “Kids today have so much going on in their lives beyond the normal school day,” Rosno says.

How to deal: For primary students, cutting down on extracurriculars near the beginning of the school year may help parents and kids balance the transition. Extra activities can be added back in once the school routine is firmly in place.

5. Too little tech

“Technology is always a point of frustration,” says Rosno, who teaches online. “It’s hard to believe that there are students who still struggle with some of the basics of how to use a computer.”

How to deal: Parents can help their kids avoid feeling less-than-tech-savvy by finding out what kinds of technology they’ll be using in the school year and giving them some experience before hand. (For example, if the classroom is full of Chromebooks that will be foreign to your Mac-user, you may want to head to Best Buy and get a demo).

6. Too much tech

For some kids, not knowing how to use technology is the problem. For others, wanting to use it All. The. Time distracts from academics—especially after a summer spent online. hat’s when adults have to help kids find balance.

“Social media and technology is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere and we need to prepare our students,” Goncalves explains, adding that she’s not a big fan of taking tech away entirely, as it’s a skill kids are going to need for the future.

How to deal: She recommends parents talk to kids about limits and responsible use at school and at home.

7. Too much homework

It’s a common complaint in September (and really, all year). According to the National PTA, parents should determine if homework complaints are really due to volume—or if there’s something else at play.

How to deal: If your child feels they have too much homework, talk about why they feel that way before talking to the teacher.

8. Understanding the homework itself

Sometimes kids will complain about the amount of homework, but really the issue stems from unclear directions or the child not understanding material taught in class.

How to deal: Once you discover the root cause you can work with your child and the teacher to make homework less stressful.

9. When your child “hates school”

If your kid prefers homework to class, that may be an issue in itself. Kids who say they “hate school” are often having problems socially or academically. According to Rosno, it’s common for kids to stay silent when they are struggling with learning, so encourage your kids to speak up.

How to deal: Same goes for social problems, though those may be a little tougher to solve. Kristen Record, the 2011 Connecticut State Teacher of the Year, says kids who are hesitant to tell their parents what’s going on will sometimes open up to a teacher or counselor. If this is the case, she says not to take it personally. “The most important thing you want [is for your child] to feel is that they could talk to you if they wanted to, even if they don’t.”

10. When a solid start becomes an academic slump

Some kids start off the school year with a hunger for knowledge—only to be coasting academically by Christmas break. If your child is experiencing this loss of initial enthusiasm, talk to them about why and what would keep them engaged year round. Losing steam after September may not be a problem in the early years, but it can have serious consequences by the time your child is a senior, Goncalves says.

How to deal: Kids face a lot of struggles during the back-to-school season, but teachers say the first step in helping them is for parents to stay involved. If you’re aware of what happens between those ringing bells, you’ll be a partner and a participant in your child’s education not just in September, but the whole year through.

As thousands of Australian children nervously prepare to go back to school, new research reveals that mindful parenting significantly reduces children’s stress levels.

While mindfulness – a present-focused, open and non-judgmental state of attention – is becoming a mainstream stress management technique, evidence of its impact on children to date has been sparse.

A new study by the University of Melbourne’s Director of Positive Psychology and Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology, Professor Lea Waters, is the first of its kind and explores how parents’ mindfulness can help ease child stress.

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worriesMany children have mixed emotions about starting a new school year. Picture: Fiickr

Professor Waters explains that past research shows when a child is stressed they draw on their parents for support, and parents have the power to diminish or increase their children’s stress levels.

“We now have strong evidence that children directly benefit when their parents are more mindful of their emotions, and pause before they react with anger, stress or frustration,” she says.

“Most parents intuitively value and give love and emotional support to their children. Mindfulness can further this emotional support by calming parents and helping them regulate their own attention and emotions.”

Rising child stress

Child stress has been amplified in recent years by the rise of technology and social media, more working parents, less free time and more aggressive marketing.

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worriesThe rise of technology and social media have contributed to increased levels of child stress. Picture: Flickr

31 per cent of Australian children report feeling ‘very stressed,’ 40 per cent believe they worry too much, and 40 per cent also feel they have difficulty staying calm.

This stress and tension often leads to psychosomatic symptoms, which are physical conditions caused by internal conflict.

“Worryingly, many children are so stressed they experience headaches, abdominal pain and have difficulty sleeping,” says Professor Waters.

How to become mindful

Anyone can learn how to become more mindful through the calming practice of being present and giving each task your full attention.

“Mindfulness is more than just a ‘buzzword’,” says Professor Waters.

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worriesMindful parenting includes being present in the moment and taking the time to listen and understand your child’s feelings. Picture: Flickr

“It’s about being fully aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. That sounds simple, but when we are doing something like getting the kids ready for school, forty per cent of the time our mind is not in the moment and aware of what we are doing.

“We are much calmer when we are in the moment because we are not thinking about an unresolved past issue or something we need to do in the future that we haven’t done yet.

“Taking the time to really listen and understand your child’s feelings promotes trust and emotional connection, which leads to a richer and more authentic relationship,” explains Professor Waters.

“It also teaches children how to be open and aware of the whole situation, including their thoughts, feelings and sensations, which in turn makes them less stressed.

“Emotional awareness is especially important during stressful school transition periods when children have a raft of mixed emotions. They might be happy to see their school friends, but nervous about how much homework they will have.”

Six tips to bring mindfulness into your daily routine:

1.Use a smart phone app to do some short mindfulness exercises on the train or bus. Some apps include calm.com, Smiling Mind, happify, 1 Giant Mind, ZMeditations and Headspace.

2.Eat your lunch mindfully by considering the smells, tastes and texture.

3.Manage your stress by stopping to take a breath, acknowledging and observing what is happening and letting it go.

4.Walk to work and between appointments. Don’t email or text, but rather take in the ground and air, and maybe even say hello to colleagues or neighbours that you pass!

5.Set mindfulness reminders to prompt you to pause, breathe and consider what’s happening in your head. You can use a smartphone app to set random mindful bells that remind you to be present.

6.Role model mindfulness techniques with your children. Practice breath awareness together when they brush their teeth, pack their school bag or put their socks on. This helps to interrupt children’s autopilot and connect them with what they’re thinking and feeling.

Some useful mindfulness books for parents:

Mindful Parenting by Susan Bogels and Kathleen Restifo

There are also books focussed on increasing mindfulness in children, such as:

Banner image: Back to School by Leland Francisco, via Flickr

How to handle your child's back‐to‐school worries

With the 2016 school year upon us, approximately 50 million American students are gearing up to enroll in elementary through high schools, according to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. That means, many children and teens are starting to become anxious about going back to school with questions such as, “Will I like my teachers? Will I have friends? Will my classes be too hard? Will I fit in? Will I get lost?”

This sense of uncertainty and uneasiness may be particularly difficult for students who have just moved, or are first-timers to elementary, middle or high school. A sense of nervousness is pretty common, and a case of jitters is normal and to be expected, but what can you do when your child is experiencing a noticeably intense amount of anxiety leading up to the start of school? Here are some general strategies to help your child overcome his school-related fears.

Take care of the basic needs.

Anxious children can often forget to eat, don’t feel hungry, and don’t get enough sleep. Make sure to provide nutritious snacks for your child often, and start to establish consistent routines during this time, so that life is more predictable for your child. These types of routines can consist of morning and bedtime habits, as well as eating schedules.

Encourage discussion around fears and worries.

Ask your child about what is making him worried. You can also ask questions such as, “What have you heard about elementary school?” “What do you think it’s going to be like?” Tell your child that it is normal to have concerns, and begin to address them one-by-one. Some kids feel most comfortable talking about concerns when they have your undivided attention, and some kids, most likely teens, feel most at ease to talk when they have some sort of distraction to lessen the intensity of their worries, such as driving in the car, or taking a walk.

Problem solve instead of giving reassurance.

Children with anxiety often seek reassurance for things that cause them stress in order to reduce their worry around engaging in those activities. Avoid reassuring them with statements like “Everything will be fine!” Instead, support your child to develop his own ways to solve his problem. For example, “If this happens (the worst-case scenario of the fear or worry), what could you do? Lets think of some ways you could handle it.” Along these lines, you can use this time to address real versus imagined scary situations. If need be, role-play with your child, to help him make a plan to feel more confident that he will be able to handle the situation in question.

Model confidence for your child.

Parents can also feel stress about their kids starting school. When children notice their parents are feeling nervous, they may become anxious, too, because they take cues from their parents. The more confidence you can model for them, the more your child will recognize there is no reason to be afraid. Don’t let your child avoid school with an explosive tantrum. Be supportive and positive, yet firm. Help your child communicate his fears and discuss how he can deal with them with a little problem-solving and planning.

Plan a timeline leading up to the first day of school.

At least one week before the start of school, start your child on a school-day routine, which includes waking up, eating, and going to bed at regular times. It may be helpful to get everyone in the family involved in this routine so that the child doesn’t feel singled-out by the changes. Start brainstorming with your child to help him plan his lunches for the first week. Create a list of school supplies together and go shopping. Talk about some coping skills he can use when he’s feeling nervous, including breathing exercises.

A couple days before school, you can practice the school day’s entire routine, maybe even multiple times so that everything becomes as familiar as possible. This includes walking, driving or waiting at the bus stop. For children who take the school bus, describe and draw out the bus route, including how long it takes to get to school. Discuss bus safety with your child and his expectations for riding the bus. For students who are first-timers to their school, take a tour with them. Show your child the classrooms, the cafeteria and the bathrooms. If possible, try to meet your child’s teacher with your child there. Help your child pack his backpack the night before. Reach out to your child’s teacher to tell him or her that your child is experiencing some anxiety. Praise your child for his brave behavior!

If your child doesn’t settle into a daily school routine a month or two into the school year, and the anxiety has become so intense and prolonged that it’s affecting his daily functioning, it may be time for some professional help. Talk to your child’s teacher and the school counselor to get their thoughts and to get their support if outside counseling is needed. Anxiety is the body’s way of alerting us to respond to dangerous or stressful events, but if your child is continually struggling with anxiety, you may need to seek out a trained counselor or psychologist. Once your child is able to tell the difference between a real danger and a “false alarm” danger, he can begin to implement various strategies and tools to handle those in a better, and less stressful way.