Back to School Anxiety

children, school, anxiety, childhood anxiety, teenage anxiety

It’s the start of the new school year again and kids and parents are getting ready for the return to school after the summer holidays.

For many children and teenagers September is an active and exciting month. Looking forward to a new school year. Perhaps even a new school with all the expectation and promise of new things to learn, new friends and new activities.

However it’s not surprising that this can also be an anxiety provoking time of year.

For most young people the excitement or anxiety will be relatively short lived, and they will have acclimatised to their new situation within the first few weeks. But not all children settle back down again, and the danger is that anxiety could become more intense and last longer than is normal or healthy.

This may also be the time that the child learns patterns and habits that can create ongoing problems in later life.

Here are a few suggestions to help you at the beginning  of a new school year –

1) Routine

Daily routine may have been ignored during the holidays, so now is the time to add some structure once again

Although they don’t always realise it themselves children and young people benefit from the structure created by clear boundaries and routines. This helps to build the sense of security that is associated with familiar things.

Now is the time to start re-establishing routines and clear boundaries about when it is time to stop playing video games, turn off the T.V., and go to bed etc.

2) A good nights sleep

Excitement and anxiety can affect sleep. Getting enough sleep is an important factor to help both performance and stress.

Be clear about boundaries and stick to routine. Make sure that T.V., monitors, tablets and laptops are switched off at least 60 minutes, preferably 90 minutes prior to sleep.

With younger children spending quality time reading them a bed time story could be of benefit to parents and children alike.

Soft lighting and calming music can also help.

3) Discuss problems and fears

Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about their fears. Remember some of the problem may simply be excitement and anticipation.

If you talk things through with them you may be able to re-assure them.

Although anxiety may provoke many responses such as tears, tummy aches, and an emphatic desire to stay at home, do not give in unless there is a really good reason!

Staying at home will only increase their fear of the unknown and make things worse.

4) Look for solutions

Sections 3 and 4 could be summarised as Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

It is all too easy to not discuss your child’s anxiety with them and expect them to go it alone.

Once you have found out what is troubling them you may be able to suggest solutions. Try working with your child to develop a plan to help them achieve a successful resolution.

Some problems may require adult intervention such as bullying or a confrontations with a heavy handed or less sensitive teacher.

Although the problem may be exaggerated or even unfounded they need to be discussed before they can be assessed.

5) Be a positive role model

Don’t let your own anxieties get the better of you!

Parental anxiety can affect children.

You might need someone to talk to about your own concerns and it may not be your spouse or partner.

Talk to more experienced friends or even a professional if you think things are getting on top of you.

6) Professional help

This could apply to yourself or to your child.

The best advice is to get help before things escalate into a more fixed pattern of behaviour.

If anxiety and worry seem to be taking up too much time and attention, regardless of what it about, then now could be the time to seek professional help.

Anxiety can become a habit and a generalised pattern and you don’t want to increase your child’s chances of developing more severe anxiety problems now or in later life.

As I have already stated this can be an anxiety provoking time of year, but most children adapt quickly and successfully. If the anxieties go on beyond the first month or so you might want to consult your GP or a trained professional.

I am always happy to discuss a problem situation or behaviour with concerned parents; give them an assessment of the situation, and what might be done.

If you or your child are feeling anxious about anything to do with school please contact me now.