We humans are wired to distrust change.
So it’s understandable that our children get back to school jitters, especially if they are heading into an unfamiliar environment.
Stress management is one of the most important skills we can teach our children. If your child has occasional worries, especially in the face of changes such as starting a new school year, there are several things you can do to help your child cope with his/her unpleasant thoughts and feelings. During a calm moment, sit down with your child and…
- Make a list of things he/she is worried about.
- Let you child list as many things as possible, no matter how realistic.
- An example could be “I won’t have anyone to sit with at lunch.”
- Rate each fear from 1 to 10 (1 being mild, 10 being extreme).
- By rating each concern, your child can see that some fears are less extreme than others.
- For major concerns, you and your child can come up with a Plan A and a Plan B.
- For the lunch example, Plan A could be “Before lunch, ask a friendly classmate if you can sit with him/her.”
- Plan B could be “Sit with Jimmy, who you know from last year” or “Sit at the same table as most people in your class, in the next open seat.”
Have a plan – or two – will help your child feel empowered and prepared. Often, we either try to fix their problems, or we allow our children to avoid the things that make them anxious. Both approaches actually reinforce their fears and may give them the idea that we don’t think they can handle the situation. We can encourage our children to deal with anxiety by sitting with it, taking deep breaths, knowing it will pass. We can also model for our children how to manage our own stress. When our kids see us handling our concerns as calmly and logically as possible, they learn a great lesson.
Knowing that our children can handle change, especially with our guidance, will hopefully be reassuring as their first day or school comes and goes.
Cheers to a successful start to the 2016-2017 school year!