by René Brooks
Many children (and adults) are preparing to go back to school. It’s one of the most hectic times of the year, and some of us find ourselves dreading it.
There is a ton of thought, preparation and purchasing to do. We have to get new clothing, meet new teachers, and make a variety of selections on merchandise that most of us frankly don’t give a fig about. If this is a nightmare for the neurotypical, just imagine how it feels for those of us suffering with anxiety.
Anxiety involves persistent worry over the unknown variables of life. When you’re going back to school for the year, there are a ton of unknown variables: Who am I going to sit with at lunch? What am I going to wear the first day of school? Will I have friends? Will they make fun of me like they did last year?
Those are just SOME of the worries that can go through your child’s head as they’re preparing to start a fresh new year. Being a parent is being in a constant state of anxiety over your child. We don’t want them to suffer, and we’ll do just about anything to smooth their path. Let’s work on getting that anxious child ready for another school year.
Preparation is key
The less that is unknown, the less there is to worry about. That means it is time to go to work!
Pack up book bags a week in advance if you need to, put it in the spot you’ve asked your child to keep their bag in during the school year. Plan two or three outfits a few days before, so the child has options if they wake up that first school day and decide their wardrobe doesn’t meet the cool quotient.
If your child has a close friend who will be in their classes with them, have them get in touch with them two days to a night before to make plans on a spot to meet up so they won’t be alone. If it is a new school, find a member of the staff to meet your child and escort them around the building so they won’t be alone in a completely unfamiliar place. A little bit of preparation goes a long way to preventing anxiety.
It can’t be emphasized enough that a well rested person is far less anxious. The problem is, worrisome thoughts can keep a body awake at night. There are a few ways to help your little one get to sleep. Start transitioning them into their school sleep schedule two weeks in advance; they won’t appreciate it now, but they will when that early alarm goes off.
Make sure you give your child enough time to lay awake and settle their mind before going to sleep, a half hour should be long enough. Any more time than that and they could start to worry about not being able to fall asleep, that’s the LAST thing you want.
Talk it out
Find out what your child’s hopes and fears for the coming year are. Do they have a difficult time making friends? Has a special friend moved away? Maybe they just feel shy around people, or they are concerned that their clothing isn’t trendy enough. These seem like small concerns to adults, but remember when you were a kid and the main thing you wanted was to fit in? That’s true of all children, and we should honor that.
Spend some time goal setting, or researching the latest fashions together. All of this is bonding time for you and your baby; plus they will realize that you see their concerns as valid. We all need validation, no matter how young we are.
Our greatest desire for our children is that they have an amazing education. Don’t let anxiety get in the way of your children’s academic success. Start working now to soothe their anxious minds and get them ready to take the year on.