Six Ways Parents can Help to Decrease Anxiety
The Webster’s Dictionary defines anxiety as:
- Worried about what may happen
- Worried about future events
Anxiety is a kind of early warning system. A child reaches the state of anxiety when he or she feels that their world is out of kilter. When the child is returning to school if that anxiety is not looked into and addressed, it is very hard for a teacher to notice an anxious child in a classroom of 20 or 25 children with a wide variety of interest and abilities.
Anxiety interferes with child’s ability to learn and interact with their peers. Parents are the first to observe that a son or daughter is becoming anxious as the time draws closer to returning to school. Since anxiety is internal, parents may not notice this change until a few days before the start of school.
Anxious feelings are very normal during times of transition or change, but if you are seeing some of the following behaviours, your child is saying non- verbally that he or she requires support.
- Unable to sleep and is tossing and turning through the night
- Clinging to parents and not wanting to ‘let them out of their sight’
- Complaining of tummy aches
- Having decreased appetite
- Getting upset and crying or being really sad when return to school is discussed
Six ways parents can help children cope and have less anxiety before school starts:
- Help your child get prepared for school: Encourage your child to assist you to create a list of school supplies that are needed such as pens, pencils and knapsack and even select the outfit he or she would like to wear on the first day of school. Then plan a fun way to go shopping such as stopping by the child’s favourite play area on your way to the store.
- Encourage your child to share his or her fears: Take a bit of additional time to spend with your child and ask what is making him/ her worried. Set up a regular time to talk about fears and help to problem solve approaches.
- Start your child on a school day routine: Waking up, eating and going to bed at a regular time. Explain that everyone at home will adjust to this schedule so that the child does not feel alone.
- Take your child for a school tour: The child’s fear may be getting on the bus or walking to school and to see a new teacher. Plan to accompany your child on the tour and go at the time when the classroom teacher is present so that routines can be explained. These routines can be discussed and reinforced at home
- Refrain from giving reassurance: It is more effective to problem solve and plan. Do not say, “everything will be fine”, instead help your child to think that if the worst happens, what could the child do. You are coaching your child to cope with unexpected situations.
- Pay attention to your own behaviour: Parents too can become quite anxious when they are planning to hand over care and responsibility for their children to teachers. The more confidence and comfort you can model, the more your child will understand there is no reason to be afraid.
What ever you do, it is crucial to support your child to attend school. Avoidance will only reinforce the fears.
Written by Norma Nicholson RN BA MA (Ed)
Author, educator, speaker and youth expert