The start of the school year may strike fear and panic in their heart. Back to school rituals like shopping for school supplies or for new school clothes illicit scenes of tantrums and tears. While you are focusing on helping your child calm their fears and adjust to the year ahead, it is also important to focus on your own self-care. Easier said than done you say. No question about it! However, while it takes some effort the following suggestions will help ease the transition not only for your child but for you as well:
1) Prepare in advance: Buy school supplies early to be sure you can get everything you need, sharpen pencils, have erasers, lunch boxes, backpacks set to go. If your child does not want to come with you to purchase these items — don’t make that a conflict, go yourself and enjoy the peace and quiet.
2) Team with the school: Consider the teachers, administrators, office staff and aides part of the team working to make your child’s year a success. If possible meet with them in advance and let them know the best ways to help your child to reduce his/her anxiety. Let them know your child’s strengths. Above all ask them to keep in touch with you about their day or week and discuss future strategies.
3) Empower your child: Helping your child develop strategies to deal with their feelings of anxiety is a powerful tool. The following are some resources that might be of help:
When My Worries Get Too Big — A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live with Anxiety by Kari Dunn Baron (For children up to the age of 5 or 6)
What to Do When You Worry Too Much — A Kids Guide to Overcoming Anxiety
By Dawn Huebner (For children from ages 6-12)
Both of these allow you to work with your child on their worries and fears in a productive thoughtful and kid friendly way. If you feel that you need extra help do not hesitate to contact a professional.
4) Connect with other parents: While you may feel as if you are the only one with this problem, you can be sure that there are other parents dealing with the same or similar situations. A number of school districts have parent run groups focusing on children who are somewhat out of the mainstream “box”. Having a forum to talk with other parents who have been through it and likely are still going through it, who know the school as well as the outside resources is invaluable. The support and friendships that often develop can last a lifetime.
5) Be kind to yourself: You are doing the best you can. Take time to do what nurtures you. You will benefit as well as your child.
6) Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint: For every bad day there will be good ones and for every two steps forward there may be one step back. In general the problem does not just go away but can be less intrusive with persistence, skill-development and love.
7) Don’t forget to breathe!