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5 Ways to Manage Back-To-School Anxiety

For many children and youth, transitions can be a time in which anxious feelings arise. In addition to the summer coming to an end, there may be changes in schools, meeting new friends, reacquainting with old friends, new teachers, and a whole host of other potential stressors. This anxiety may be even more pronounced this school year with the additional changes due to the rules and restrictions put in place for COVID-19.

Here are 5 helpful ways in which you can assist your child or youth in successfully navigating this transition.

1. Cover the Basics:

Ensure that your child or youth is getting the rest they require, having regular meals, eating healthy snacks, and exercising daily. Anxiety is easier to manage when the mind and body are properly taken care of. With proper mental and emotional nourishment, your child or youth will be more capable of handling stressors, concentrating, and adapting to new situations.

2. Listen to Their Concerns:

Pay attention to your child or youth’s worries and concerns. Provide them with a safe place to openly discuss their worries and anything else that may be on their mind. Set aside time to allow them to debrief after school. Look for other opportunities for sharing, like during car rides, standing in line at the store, or during meals. Listening shows that you are taking their concerns seriously and that you are there to offer support.

3. Generate Solutions:

Now that you know what your child or youth’s concerns are, you can assist them in problem-solving. This is a skill that is difficult for most children and youth due to lack of experience, their stage of development, and self-doubt about their own abilities to cope. Assist them in developing concrete solutions, both for real situations that arise but also to settle their fears regarding imagined worst-case scenarios.

4. Be Positive:

Anxiety typically results from negative thinking. Do not underestimate the power of dwelling on the positive aspects of a situation. Many children and youth who are anxious about returning to school are so focused on the negative aspects and the resulting anxiety that they completely overlook the positive elements. As a parent, take the time to assist your child or youth in creating a balanced view by helping them remember the fun and exciting parts of school that they may have ignored.

5. Be Self-Aware:

As a parent, ensure that you manage your own anxiety. Recognize that the beginning of school and the changes brought on by COVID-19 can be stressful for you as a parent as well. Try to put on a brave face in front of your child or youth despite your own anxieties. If you can be a model of calmness and confidence (at least outwardly), your child or youth will take their cues from you and will develop a stronger belief in their own ability to cope with the anxiety they are feeling. Make sure that you do not reward your child’s protests by allowing them to stay home. Instead, take an opportunity to validate their emotions, listen to their concern, and then help them problem solve.

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