There may be lots of reasons why your child is anxious about going back to school, starting a new school, past experiences of bullying or adversity, separation anxiety, the list goes on. Almost certainly many children will have found the events of the last 18 months or so have added to their worries.
It’s quite natural for children to worry and be anxious at various stages in their school and home life and most children will successfully learn to manage their thoughts, feelings and emotions, but some may need extra support.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it disrupts a child’s life at home or at school on a regular basis.
This is a topic close my heart as my youngest grandson found the lockdowns and changes to his routines and school very challenging. The return to school after the first lockdown was really difficult for him but, with support, he managed and started the new school year (September 2020) quite confidently….. then the second lockdown happened.
Although we knew why my grandson was anxious it was still very challenging to find ways to support and encourage him, especially with strategies that he could use when in school and away from family. We knew he was worried because his sleep was disturbed, he found it hard to be still, found it difficult to concentrate, would blink frequently and even on occasion developed small physical tics. The blinking and tics were especially distressing for him as they were noticeable to his classmates.
What can you do to help?
Stay calm, be supportive and practical
As hard as it may be, try not to get drawn into their emotions. Praise and reward small (and big) successes when they face their fears. Remain positive and encouraging.
Focus on what helps
Help them think through what they have learned about their fears and about themselves. Did their worry come true? How did they cope? Rather than trying to reassure your child that it will be alright. For example, if they are worried about not having someone to play with they need to know how to deal with that.
Try a grounding technique or mindfulness activity
- Counting breaths, encourage your child to focus on their breathing by counting the number of ‘in’ and ‘out’ breaths. Count up to 10.
- Just focus on breathing, close their eyes and think of something they are grateful for, try this for a couple of minutes.
- Use your senses, using one sense at a time think of:
5 things they can SEE
4 things they can HEAR
3 things they can SMELL
2 things they can TOUCH
1 thing they can TASTE
- Finger Counting - child holds out one hand (sitting or standing). As they breathe in for 5 counts they will place each finger into the palm of their hand until they make a fist. As they breathe out for 5 counts they will uncurl each finger. Repeat for a few minutes, you may have to lead the counting but that doesn’t matter.
- Stretch your body and wiggle and clench your toes.
Try a few of these activities to see what works best for your child. There are lots of sites which have many more you could have a go at.
We also have our mindfulness activity pack you can download from our welcome email here!
Talk to the school
They will be an invaluable source of support and encouragement.
As I write my grandson has yet to return to school, we know it will be a challenge for him and us, but we have been talking and using the strategies like the ones I have mentioned and we are thinking positively. I will update you later in the term.
Comment below if you have any other methods that have worked for you. We can all learn a lot from eachothers experiences.
N.B. My comments refer to my experiences with my grandson. I am offering the support I would have given if approached by a parent of a child in my class. I am not an educational psychologist and if you have serious concerns about your child and their level of anxiety please seek professional help.