When Going Back to School is Not That Easy
In only a few short weeks, the warm summer days will lead into the back-to-school frenzy. Some children and adolescents become excited about entering a new grade, meeting future friends, learning and gaining new skills, and going back to a regular routine. For the others, transitioning back to an unknown situation causes stress, worry and anxiety.
In working with families to ease school anxiety, I see some common situations. Sometimes, a student will begin the school year with excitement and then later become anxious over new and demanding social situations or workloads. There are students who are nervous about the new school year but then settle into a routine easily. While I also work with students who are anxious throughout the school year and don’t relax until there is a break.
There are several strategies parents can employ to help their children and adolescents be successful in and out of school. Especially those dealing with anxiety issues. The time to start intervention is now, however, we don’t want to decrease the enjoyment with too much talk about the impending transition. Here is a suggested list to move more smoothly into the August start date.
Late July: Do your back-to-school shopping early. Children are generally excited about shopping for new supplies and clothes. These shopping trips plant the idea of the new school year starting without laying too much stress on the actual start date.
August 1st: It’s time to start getting back into an early to bed, early to rise routine. Sunset is a good time to suggest winding down for a nighttime reading session. Reading also keeps the mind active (watch for other articles on active learning during school breaks).
Early August: Begin some food shopping/prepping activities as a means to practice for school-day breakfasts, lunches and dinners. These activities are excellent ways to signal the start of school without taking away the fun of the last days of summer break.
The key is to ease back into the school routine naturally. Rushing to gather supplies and quick sleeping and waking transitions can lead, not only to stress in the home, but physical stress as well.
Mid-August or week before school start: Begin some school-year goal setting. Even children as young as preschool age can create goals for the year. Goal setting moves children and adolescents toward being in charge of their own education. Students sometimes become anxious about performing to goals set by others and one’s which may seem unattainable to them.
As school anxiety becomes more prevalent, we can look at the language we use in regard to performance and achievement. Our goals as parents are for our children to work hard, be challenged, be successful and maximize their potential. Because all children are different, academic achievement also looks different with each child. When we include our children in the goal-setting and achievement conversation, we empower them to truly do their best.
Future articles in this series will include active learning, what authentic enrichment looks like, building a strong home/school connection, facing social challenges at school and other topics as requested in comments.