There is a ritual played out amongst parents of school aged children, and it happens over the Labour day weekend. It’s called the Happy Dance. Love our kids, but love back to school too!
For the kids it’s obviously a time for reluctant excitement as well; new classes, new clothes, new supplies, new teachers, new friends. The month of September usually finds everyone getting settled back into a routine; getting to school on time, homework, extra school activities… for some families, it is non-stop and for some kids it’s a blur-so much happening that before they know it, it’s time to pick out their Halloween costumes.
But for some kids, back to school is an incredibly anxious time for them. Anxiety in school-age kids is incredibly common and it’s on the rise. Just Google “Back To School Anxiety” and you’ll instantly get about 3.4 million hits.
It’s very hard to know what causes this with some kids-sometimes there’s an obvious reason, sometimes there is no reason at all. Some kids get themselves worked up to the point where they are physically ill. It’s very, very tough on the kids and also on the families. If there are other siblings in the family, then the anxiety can easily spread (like a cold!) to the other kids and before you know it, everyone is upset and no one knows why.
It’s tough on the parents – as the parent of a child with anxiety you have to make the call whether it’s one of those “You are okay, tough it out” moments or whether your child needs a hug again. And again, and again and again…..
If your child is suffering from anxiety with the onset of going back to school, there are a few things you can do to alleviate it:
Talk to your child’s teacher and principal. They have seen many, many kids go through this and will be your biggest support during this time for your child
Talk with other parents. You could be surprised at how many of them are going through exactly the same thing as you, or have been through it before. Or have gone through it every September!
Set an example and have fun! Approach going to school with a smidge of gusto and a whole whack of fun! Emphasize all of new experiences your child will have and make sure they realize that they are never alone with anything at school.
Give your child a reminder. A note or treat in the lunchbox, a favourite photo in their binder. These things make kids realize that you’re not that far away from them, and the time at school will fly by for them in a flash.
Don’t forget the basics! Making sure that your child has had a good restful sleep the night before, and a healthy breakfast the morning of school will ensure that physically they are 100% ready for what the day holds for them.
Probably the most important thing to remember when your child suffers from back-to-school anxiety is for you - the parent - to remember that you’re not alone. It’s not just your child that’s crying in the morning, it’s not just you that gets the phone call from a teacher that your child wants to come home and you are not the only one who is feeling a mixture of heartbreak and frustration. Not at all.
And lastly, although it seems like the anxiety will last forever, it won’t! Talk to others, work with your child, try not to get frustrated and before you know it, your child will be racing you to school in the morning and giving you a big wave good-bye at the door.