For many families, the new school year is exciting. Parents are relieved at the prospect of a quieter house, kids are looking forward to more time with friends and some students may even be excited about their new classes.
But for many kids, going back to school can create anxiety over peer relationships, a new school, different teachers and more. For many kids this is a mild anxiety that can be dealt with best at home with their parents. CMHO wants to help parents and caregivers create a smoother transition into the school year for their child.
Below are some basic tips that will help you get started on tackling that Back to School anxiety:
- Be calm and supportive.
Be sure to take their concerns seriously and show your child that you support them and believe in their ability to handle the situation.
- Allow your child as much control as possible.
While they may not get to choose whether or not they go back to school, anxiety can be eased by allowing them control over other aspects. Let your child pick their clothes, backpacks, lunch bags etc.
- Help your child develop techniques that they can use to calm themselves down when they are in any situation.
Make sure that you are helping them learn ways to self-soothe that they can use anywhere. Things like breathing exercises, drawing, talking to a friend, or taking a walk. Kids may try to avoid school more if they don’t know how to calm themselves down without things like toys or an iPad.
- If your child’s anxiety is stemming from bullying, build up their self-esteem.
Being bullied can make a child feel small or unimportant and can contribute to feelings of anxiety or sadness. Do things at home that can make your child feel important. Maybe enroll them in extra-curricular activities where they can excel and meet friends away from their school environment.
- If your child has more serious mental health or behavioural issues, make an appointment with the teacher.
It is so important to give your child’s teacher the best idea possible about what to expect and how to support your child. Make an appointment with their teacher where you can discuss exactly what your child’s needs are and make an action plan about what to do when your child is having a bad day and who they can rely on for support. If possible, bring your child with you to these meetings so the teacher, parent and child feel like they are making these plans together.
- If you need extra support, visit your nearest child and youth mental health centre
Sometimes a child’s anxiety might be so bad that you can’t get them to go to school at all. If this is the case, you should consider heading to your local child and youth mental health centre for more support. These services are free of charge and no referral is required. Many of these centres will provide classes for parents and youth, walk-in clinics and so much more. Find your nearest agency by visiting https://cmho.org/findhelp/
1 in 5 kids in Ontario are affected by mental health issues. For these kids and their families, a new school year can cause stress beyond the typical jitters, including financial and relationship issues. But there are supports available in your community to help your family through this new school year.