So, as parents, what can we do for our kids that are worried about getting back to school? Well, I have 3 tips to help ease back to school anxiety.
Teach Kids to Talk Back to Their Anxiety
The number one thing we can do for a child with anxiety is to empower them to talk back to their anxiety. Let’s say your child is nervous for school, and they say to you, “Mom, I am worried about getting on the bus because I am always lonely on the bus.” If you respond to your child and say, “You are right, I’m sorry, let's drive you to school,” then you are actually accommodating your child’s anxiety. This is a negative reinforcement loop which is when their anxiety is actually reinforced. Instead, you can handle a situation like this by saying, “Ok, you are worried about the bus. I hear you. What makes you feel lonely?” Then you can dive into what makes them feel lonely. Teaching your child that stress is real and that some things can be stressors is important, because working through your child’s anxiety is crucial. We don’t want to give in to their anxiety or teach them to give into their anxiety inadvertently.
Teaching our kids how to problem-solve around their anxiety and to talk to them about it is extremely important. We do not want to give into kids’ anxiety, or even ignore their feelings and make them “just deal with it.” Prompt your child to think about what is actually making them uncomfortable or what is sparking their worries. What does that feel like in their body? I like to tell parents that learning how to manage stress is not just a gift for today, but a gift for the future. These are stress incolulators which help us propel stress and deal with it when it happens.
Validate and Be Supportive Without Accommodating Their Anxiety
Another way to help your child with back to school anxiety is to talk to them about their worries and use supportive statements. You may say, “So I hear that you are having a hard time, how can I help you?” or “You made it on the bus yesterday, amazing! What was different about being on the bus? How did you get through that?” Offering supportive statements is extremely useful and helps kids get out of any uncomfort that they may be feeling. You can check out my Teletherapy Book™ which offers a lot of supportive statements that parents can use to help their kids when they are feeling uncomfortable and stressed.
Give Positive Reinforcement For Problem Solving
Offer lots of positive reinforcement, both in your child’s attempts to manage their anxiety and their success. Positive reinforcement can never hurt, and from a neuroscience perspective, it is the way to reinforce behavior. You can say things like, “Wow, you really handled that like a champ, give me a high five!” Or with a teenager, you may say “I saw you pick your clothes off your floor, I am really proud of you.” Celebrating the little wins is a great thing, because they do not always have to be big! Positive reinforcement is all about helping guide and shape behaviors, specifically positive behaviors that we want to continually see our kids continue to display.
Although it may be hard as a parent to see your child face anxiety and worries that come up with getting in the back-to-school groove, it is good to be aware that you can help your child and give them the tools to manage their stress in healthy ways.
For more information, check out my Youtube video on How to Help Your Child Handle Back to School Anxiety.
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