Take the Anxiety Out of the Back to School Season
As we prepare for the back to school season, we know from experience that preparation is more than school supplies and shopping. This is a stressful time for families and children, but even more so for those who experience behavioral or mental health concerns. To be proactive rather than reactive, we’ve compiled a list of best practices, tips, and strategies for successfully starting a new school year, including a few staff recommendations:
- Sleep Matters: Erratic sleep patterns and staying up too late will have a negative impact and mood, performance and adaptability. Before school starts begin to get back on a regular schedule.
- Check Your Anxiety Levels: Children will pick up your anxiety. Are you stressed, overwhelmed, nervous about your child(ren) returning to school? If so, take a breather, figure out what is raising your anxiety level and take steps to minimize it.
- Make “Back to School” a Priority: Clear the calendar of activities that can be moved, and focus on getting into a routine. This is also an opportunity to create “Back to School” rituals, not unlike a holiday, make it fun, engaging and something they can look forward to. Include your child(ren) and allow them to be part of the preparation.
- Talk: Be open and available for conversation. Ask questions, inquire about how they feel, are they excited, nervous. If you know there is a particular stressor around school, bring it up and talk it through. Empower your child with solutions for potential problems and reach out for help if you need it.
- Meet with Teachers and Educators: If you know your child is experiencing anxiety or has a specific situation, meet with teachers, educators, school administrators, guidance counselors or the school psychologist before school starts. Let them know that your child may need some extra attention and what to watch out for. Do not assume that they will notice, some classes can be quite large and the first day of school is hectic. Giving them a heads up can help facilitate a successful reentry into school.
From Our Staff
Cy Abitan, Outreach & Engagement
“Set aside 1 hour on a Sunday to prepare for the week (outfits for every day, lunches, and looking at school agenda) to avoid having the case of the Mondays.”
Isabel M. Velazquez, Behavioral Health Aide in JumpStart4Kids shares a few ways to
alleviate the fears of an anxious child:
“Get to know your neighbors. It is very likely that other children in the neighborhood will be attending the same school. Connect with other families and walk to school together as a group, this will help decrease your child’s anxiety and help them feel safe.
“Practice back to school routines. Prior to first day of school, practice what your daily morning routine will look like. Organize what you can the night before (i.e., backpack, homework, lunch, school notes, etc.) so that your child does not feel so rushed. If possible, take a self-guided tour of the school and become familiar with things like your child’s classroom, library, playground etc. so that the child feels safe and comfortable.
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Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Western Youth Services