While many children have been back to school for sometime now, many parents still have fears of sending their children back to school.
This stress can become even more severe if your child is going to a new school. In this article we share some tips to help your child deal with fear and anxiety, develop resilience and confidence.
Talk to your child
To help tackle anxiety and fear, it’s essential to understand the roots of your child’s feelings. For many people, children included, it’s difficult to express fears – expressing them may make us feel vulnerable. An honest conversation with your child is going to help illustrate the way forward, so knowing how to have the conversation is critical.
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Your child’s age will, of course, influence the conversation. Young children may have a hard time expressing their feelings, so look for subtle cues in the things they bring up. A young child may say that going back to school “is scary” without being specific – you’ll have to ask them what exactly is scary about going back to school, and why it feels scary. An older child or teenager may tell you they don’t want to talk about it. You can’t force them to have the conversation, but you can let them know that you’re there for them if they ever do want to talk.
When it comes to the conversation itself, don’t just ask your child how they’re feeling (afraid, anxious) and why they’re feeling that way (social/academic problems), but how they plan on dealing with that problem. The future-oriented nature of fear means that if we have a plan in place, our fear may lessen – the degree to which the fear diminishes may correlate to how effective we believe the plan will be in reducing perceived consequences.
Create a Plan
Your child needs to go to school – optimally, they’ll enjoy it. That means they’ll need a plan to reduce or eliminate their fear and anxiety. This plan should start with them. That’s why it’s so important to ask your child what they plan on doing about the sources of their anxiety – they may find it easier to execute a plan they come up with.
One of the most significant sources of fear and anxiety is the feeling that you’re not up to a particular task – in other words, a lack of self-confidence. By asking your child to take the reins in planning how they’ll deal with their fear or anxiety, you’re allowing them to confront their worries with their own will, which can build up their confidence.
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Building resilience is about taking small steps. The concept of resilience doesn’t eliminate the things your child may be fearing; schoolwork may still be challenging, and bullies may continue to bully them.
How they process these setbacks is what resilience is all about. Encourage your child to think of all kinds of possibilities. What if they start to struggle with schoolwork again? They can talk to their teacher about it, ask you or a friend for help, set time aside each day to study, and get a tutor. Are they getting bullied again?
They can say stop and try to diffuse the situation. That might not work; they can go to their teachers or you for help. Analyse several potential setbacks, discuss them with your child, and work together (with your child in the lead) to develop a sophisticated plan of action.
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Continue to have conversations with your children about how their plans of action are working out. Talk with them about the good and bad of their day. Encourage them to take pride in their success and to think of new avenues of action when they encounter difficulties. Patience, perseverance, and a growth mindset are crucial to overcoming most problems, in childhood and beyond.
Find a school that offers social-emotional development
Before choosing a new school for your child it is important that you look for a school that offers social-emotional development. Developing social-emotional skills is important to a child’s development, as it equips them with the skills necessary to deal with challenges. It also helps children develop empathy, take accountability for their own actions and build long-lasting relationships with others.
KIDTHINK is a mental health treatment centre and outreach program that focuses on improving mental health and well-being for children aged 12 and under in Manitoba. KIDTHINK provides a model of care that includes psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals to create a truly multidisciplinary team that all works together to give the children and their families the highest standard of care.