Back to School Jitters

We are into the second full week of August, and I have received my first call about a child who is anxious about school starting.  The reminders are everywhere.  The advertisements are on television for back to school supplies and clothes.  Children with learning disabilities and others who are simply anxious  are beginning to have difficulty sleeping at night.  They might also be more irritable and rigid during the day.  How to cope?  This is no fun for parents either.

  1. The first step for parents is to recognize that this change is about worries; not bad behavior.  Set limits on behavior, but address the cause.
  2. If your child isn’t talking about it, bring it up yourself from time to time and wonder what her thoughts and feelings are.  Some kids are going to new schools, and they are worried that they will get lost, or won’t have friends in their class, or that there will be mean kids there.  Others may have heard that the work is much harder in the next grade, and they worry that they’ll have too much homework.  Just talking about these worries is helpful.
  3. Validate.  It is very tempting to tell your child, “Don’t worry.  Things will be fine.”  If your child knew how to stop worrying, she would.  It’s more helpful to say that you understand. Sit with your child and the worries first.  Just understanding helps decrease the anxiety.  Arguing increases it.
  4. Check out the school.  For some kids, especially those with Asperger Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disability, it is difficult to anticipate how things will look and feel in a new grade.  Start taking a walk, bike ride, or drive to the school every few days.  This helps your child get acquainted with the route, if it’s a new one, and just review if it isn’t.
  5. Visit the school.  As the start of school approaches, teachers will be in their classrooms setting up.  Go on in and introduce yourselves.  It will be very helpful for your child to see the classroom and meet the teacher.  Don’t stay long.  It’s a busy time for teachers, but most will understand why you are there.
  6. Remind your child of the anxiety management strategies he has already learned.  See my June 2012 blog, “What’s in Your Toolbox?” for suggestions.

Oh, and equally important enjoy the rest of your summer!  Keeping your child busy will also help manage the end of summer worries.


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Photo Credit: dos ojos on Flickr


6 Responses to “Back to School Jitters”
  1. Carolyn,

    We already did the first week of school here–yikes. Everyone at my house is worn out, and we’re seeing some tired-induced grumpiness. I like reminding my kiddos to stop and breathe–which is a good reminder for me too.


  2. I like step one: know that this is about worries, not behaviors. Putting yourself in your child’s shoes and validating their emotions will go a long way.

  3. JoAnn Jordan says:

    My guess is #3 is a common “error”. It takes longer to verbalize the concerns but does so much more to help you help your child.

  4. dr.cstone says:

    Wow, you get going early in the MidWest. Breathing is always good! I agree.

  5. dr.cstone says:

    Hi Rachelle,
    Thanks for your comment. I agree, it’s so simple, but it’s easy to forget when kids are worrying about things that seem trivial to us. Just stopping to understand can minimize the worry.

  6. dr.cstone says:

    Hi JoAnn,
    I think it’s common to want to “argue” kids out of their worries with reason. But worries (theirs and ours) aren’t “reasonable.” Thanks for your comment.