Cathi Cohen, LCSW
Summer is coming to a close quickly and it’s back to school time again. In all the stores and in many of the commercials, you can’t avoid it, the sense of a summer’s “end” is near. As the start of the school year approaches, perhaps you have seen your first grader go into meltdown mode at the mention of school, or watched your soon-to-be kindergartner regress back to baby talking and thumb sucking? Rest assured that you’re not alone.
Each fall, millions of parents deal with beginning of the school year anxiety. The fears children have about school can be very real: they may be apprehensive about separating from their parents, riding the school bus, meeting a new teacher or making friends. The emotions your child experiences before the start of school can lead to a general sense of anxiety—a feeling your child may not be able to express.
Here at In Step we have been conducting groups to help some of these children. Whether in our school starter group, the kindergarten readiness group, or one of our many other groups these children meet for six weeks over the summer. They prepare for the transition to school and some of the events that may cause them anxiety. If your child is starting to experience anxiety at the thought of school beginning call us, one of our groups may be right for you. If group therapy not right for you, we have individual therapy, testing, and educational support in addition to our extensive group options.
Here are some tips to manage back to school anxiety.
1. Keep your own anxiety in check: Even if you don’t say a word, they can feel your anxiety. If you are stressed, it’s likely to rub off on your child. It can reinforce their fears. Let them know that you trust them and that you will get through it together.
2. Get Familiar: One of the best ways to address fear of the unknown is to become more familiar with it. Go to the Open House or take your child with you to registration. Another possibility is to call ahead on a teacher workday, explain that your child is feeling nervous, and ask if you can bring her in to meet her teacher and see her room.
3. Have a trial run: The day before the first day of school, set the alarm. Get up and get ready, establishing the morning routine. Get everyone out the door on time (with the backpack) and walk to the bus stop or drive to school.
4. Talk: Provide a safe place to talk about fears. Having an outlet to talk about it can relieve some of the tension. If you are unable to be this person (due to your own anxiety), make sure there is someone your child can talk to.
5. Get help if needed: If the anxiety is extreme or lasting for a long time, seek help. Talk to your doctor, the school guidance counselor or contact us at In Step. We can offer you support, testing and treatment to move you in the right direction.