Reducing Back-To-School Anxiety

We can all remember the days up to and including going back to school. Days filled with excitement, followed by dread and anxiety after shopping for school supplies was over and the end of summer quickly drew to a close. As millions of students return to school this year, a lot of youngsters in particular need effective coping strategies to help manage the transition.

Apprehension and anxiety can turn into physical and emotional symptoms fairly quickly, especially for younger age groups. Children can quickly become insecure, lose their confidence, and find difficulty in adjusting as they enter a new grade, a new school, or start out on a new year. Throwing a temper tantrum or two is normal; although frustrating for parents, caregivers, and babysitters, it is a natural result of trying to adjust to change. With the flurry of emotions and changing pace during this time of year, it’s normal to experience a dizzying array of characteristics and high levels of discomfort.

Going back to school does have many positive attributes associated with it; think of the excitement of new friends, the possibilities of learning new subjects, meeting new teachers, and exploring new relationships with peers and social groups. However, new classes and homework loads can fuel the sources of added stress no matter what age; the key in handling each situation effectively is to understand and adjust for the change before the stress levels get out of control.

Reducing anxiety for children and youngsters who are entering new grade levels and school settings can be simple and easy. If you find that a child is exhibiting an extreme emotion; withdrawing completely, or throwing tantrums far often than usual, it may make sense to make some adjustments to their schedules and be mindful of their habits:

âÂ?¢ Encourage schedules and rotate activities. Children can become easily overwhelmed without some form of stability and standards. Too much too soon doesn’t have to stay that way when they can depend on a regular sleep, mealtime, and wake-up schedule.

âÂ?¢ Instill healthy nutrition habits. Even if summer seems like a ‘wash’ for your child’s diet (who couldn’t resist those nightly ice cream treats?), do make some positive health changes with high-nutrition-value foods. Incorporate healthy eating habits with fresh fruit snacks, healthy protein such as peanut butter, and other low fat but high-flavor meals that maximize their energy levels.

âÂ?¢ Encourage ‘talk time’ as soon as they get back from school to discuss their day. Pay attention to their likes, dislikes, and what situations they experienced.

âÂ?¢ Avoid TV time immediately after school; instead, encourage the child to take part in a relaxing and restful activity for 20-30 minutes. Let them ‘de-stress’ naturally before they pick up an energy bug and begin avoiding any natural feelings in the process.

âÂ?¢ Find out and reduce intense fears. Take part in open and honest conversations about what school was like, how they reacted, and what may be holding them back from pursuing something they really enjoy. Oftentimes it may just be stifled emotions that can create unnecessary anxiety for a child. When they can express their thoughts and ideas comfortably, they will be less likely to ‘act out.’

� Notice any trends or characteristic mood swings and behaviors. Make note of how they react to tension, homework overload, or even approaching extracurricular activities. A healthy balance in all areas gives them the opportunity to enjoy all things in a fun, easygoing, and productive way.

� Model and emulate a balanced lifestyle, and show them how to make conscientious decisions. Take an active role in helping them choose what they like to do, and encouraging positive activities that are most suitable for their energy levels and abilities.

� Calm their worries about conflict, apprehension about peer pressures, and other emotional issues by talking and role-playing. Sometimes a boost in confidence is all it takes to overcome any difficulties they may be experiencing as they meet and interact with new people.

� Stay organized! Making sure backpacks are packed the night before, lunch is prepared well before the school bus arrives, and everyone has their schedules ready are just some simple but effective steps to stay organized. Organization helps in creating a sense of control and lightens anxiety for everyone when heading out the door.

All of these strategies can involve some adjustments and conflict as children learn the positive aspects of change when going back to school. Change is a constant at any stage of life, and the sooner children can learn how to adapt and cope effectively, the better they can mature and develop in other areas. Anxiety, apprehension, and fear are all causes of negativity that can create problems down the road. Take the time and steps to reduce the chances of an out-of-balance lifestyle, by making conscious change possible for both the child and yourself.

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