After attending 11 different schools, you’d think I would have known how to handle Back to School Anxiety.
That was not the case. Each new school, each new September, I was always ill with nerves.
Despite finding school a refuge from my tumultuous home life, the first day always found me lying on the washroom floor trying to calm my anxiety.
Back to school jitters are real. It’s a time of uncertainty, excitement, change, plus there are potential layers of worry with how schools will deal with Covid-19.
“Well, I expect it to be perfectly normal to be slightly nervous on your first but I’m sure everything will be fine.” Anne with an E
Today’s post is to share our Back to School with Confidence Guide.
In our back to school with confidence guide we break support down in 4 easy steps
- Leading change
- Working together
- Understanding need
- Promoting wellbeing
Support Children with Back to School Anxiety by Leading the Way
Back to school is not only stress-inducing for children, but parents alike.
Needing to reintroduce routines, handle homework and after school clubs, and bedtimes can be a handful.
Help your child handle their own anxiety by first observing if you’re feeling anxious and or stressed.
As parents, it’s easy to feel as though you should have it all together… or at the very least, appear to have it all handled. But this is unrealistic!
Use your own anxiety as you approach the school year to sit down with your family and discuss the upcoming changes, anxieties, and stresses, and make a plan!
Working Together to Ease Anxious Thoughts and Behaviours
If you wanted to be physically healthy, but you don’t know how to start or go the next step, you’d likely turn to a professional. Maybe a personal trainer, or a trusted friend who has shown consistent results.
The same is true for our Mental Health. It’s a team effort.
Is your child anxious predominantly about school course work, feeling behind, not feeling confident etc. If so, then dedicated 1-1 support with a tutor can prove to ease a lot of tension and stress and boost their confidence.
Is your child concerned more about the unknown? This is definitely normal. Talking to them about their concerns and doing things like meeting the teacher, looking at the school layout, and even doing a dry run of school drop off can help a lot.
Is your child anxious and they aren’t sure why? Helping them to build their emotional literacy skills through some of these games and activities can help ease a lot of tension for the whole family. Otherwise, working with a wellbeing coach or mentor could be a great next step.
One of my most recommended tips for families positively supporting mental health is to introduce a family night once a month. During this family time, every one gets to share worries, stresses, positives, achievements, and ways they feel they can be best supported in the month to come.
August is a great time to launch these family nights and lead the way in how to positively handle stress… because it’s normal!
Understanding your Anxiety and Making a Plan
Anxiety can manifest in different ways, but there are some common features. Below is a list curated by YoungMinds, a UK based charity focused on children’s mental health that Bettering Youth has been supporting since 2020.
- feeling nervous, on edge, or panicky all the time
- having trouble sleeping
- low appetite
- finding it difficult to concentrate
- feeling tired and grumpy
- heart beating really fast or thinking you’re having a heart attack
- having a dry mouth
- feeling overwhelmed or full of dread
- trembling, or having wobbly legs
- feeling faint
- stomach cramps and/or diarrhoea/needing to pee more than usual
- sweating more than usual
- feeling out of control
- getting very hot
Now that you are normalising big feelings by sharing them with your child and creating a dedicated time in the diary to discuss everyone’s feelings at length, it’s time for the next step.
Dive into how big feelings manifest in your child and make a plan.
Talk About it:
It starts by talking about it – this allows for emotional literacy to improve. Emotional literacy refers to the ability to feel an emotion or feeling and identify it or how it’s affecting you.
- How does stress feel in my body?
- Where do I feel my anxiety?
- Do I have certain behavioural responses to stress? Am I someone who avoids? Do I try and overcompensate?
Related Article: Activities to support emotional literacy.
What will help:
Once we can identify how we’re feeling, then we can start to reflect on how we can help ourselves, and how we could receive help from others.
- When you’re anxious you mentioned you feel ____, what do you think you can do to help ease that?
- What would you want me to do to help you?
- If you can’t share how you feel, but you feel icky, can we come up with a code so I know that you need some support?
Promoting Wellbeing to Ease Anxiety
The next step is to create a habit of promoting wellbeing at all times to ensure stress level management.
Discuss self-care rituals with your child and have them reflect on what will bring them joy.
Self care is the act of doing things to protect your mental, physical and emotional health.
Self Care Ideas
- Daily movement
- Being outdoors
- Getting creative
- Staying connected to friends and family
- Writing gratitudes
- Reading, Colouring
Supporting Mental Health for Back to School
Mental health needs all hands on deck.
It is common for mental health to ebb and flow, just like our physical wellbeing.
Whether you’re a parent looking to support you child or an educator looking for ways to support mental health in the classroom, this Back to School with Confidence Guide will help make the transition easier.
More resources from Bettering Youth:
Meet Our Back to School Expert
Sarahlynn attended 11 schools before she reached University; she knows a thing or two about back to school anxiety. During her work hours, you can find Sarahlynn supporting her students academically and emotionally through 1-to-1 tuition and emotional wellbeing coaching online and in Ascot. When she is not tutoring, Sarahlynn enjoys dog walking, rock climbing and face timing her family in Canada, all of which are part of her weekly self care routine.