Overcoming Anxiety at School

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Let’s prep our kids for going back to school! Whether they’re attending class in person or virtually, many of us are not prepared for the anxiety our children are feeling about returning to school. As parents and caregivers, there are ways we can help our children have a smooth transition into their classrooms and feel more confident about the academic year overall. 

Acknowledge and Validate:

Our kids may not come to us and tell us they’re feeling anxious, but if notice they are withdrawn or not seeming like themselves, we can initiate a conversation about how they feel. If our children do cometo us with anxiety or stress, we need to create a safe space for a conversation about their feelings. Bottom line is whether they come to us or not, we must understand that our children put a lot of stress and pressure on themselves because they want to make us proud, but also, they are aware of everything that’s going on in society, even if they come by the information in passing. We must acknowledge and validate their feelings of fear, anxiety, or confusion, and let them know that there is nothing wrong with feeling those things and be transparent that we sometimes feel those emotions, too

Be Encouraging: 

Encouraging our children means motivating them and supporting them through changes and challenges. For example, letting our children know that we’re there for them amidst the multiple changes to the school day and classroom protocols goes a long way. Explaining safety precautions, rehearsing new processes, and being honest about dangers and concerns helps protect them and encourages them to trust the changes rather than fear them.

Prepare as a Family: 

Helping our children prepare for the school year is a group effort. We must inform ourselves about school policies and class expectations then share that information with our children. Not having adequate information fosters frustration and uncertainty, which leads to anxiety. Making sure we are all prepared and informed helps us all feel more secure and more confident.

Give Positive Feedback: 

Offering frequent work recognition contributes to positive self-image and high self-esteem. There are going to be difficulties and obstacles throughout the school year, but frequent positive reinforcement—saying “I’m proud of you” or “You did an awesome job!”—can help alleviate fear, stress, and anxiety as positive feedback encourages increased efforts to do well and try their best.

Reach out to Educators: 

Initiate conversations with teachers. Our teachers are not the enemy. We have to support them as they deal with changes and challenges along with the rest of us. They are with our children all day and having a positive, open relationship with them offers a team-based approach to supporting our children.

At the core of all these tips is communication and transparency. A shared approach where everyone feels seen, heard, and empowered can make the return to school a joy rather than a drag.

Dr. Carleah East