The “New” Back-to-School Anxiety
Do you remember your first day at school? Butterflies, uncertainty, frayed nerves? It’s a common experience shared by many and if you have kids, you can be certain they feel it too. This year may be the worst year in a long time to suffer from back-to-school anxiety.
Last year there was the novel problem of adapting to virtual learning. Now, the return to brick and mortar schools is causing many to wring their hands with worry.
In a normal year, it can be hard for children to face the return to class. But now the anxiety has been compounded not only by a year and a half without friends or teachers, but also the tension we’ve all faced over that time.
In addition to the reluctance of stepping back into an environment where, let’s face it, some kids don’t want to be in the first place - there’s the concern about Covid-19. Younger children may still be confused and scared by what transpired in 2020 and the first half of this year. Older kids might be hesitant about security and safety measures.
Then there are the parents. You’ve dealt with back-to-school anxiety in the past, but now it’s like something we’ve never seen before. It can feel overwhelming and cause anxiety for us as well! But here I’d like to offer some tips I’ve gleaned over years of practicing psychiatry helping families and children.
Here are five solid pieces of advice for helping your kids overcome the back-to-school jitters in such an unprecedented year.
1. Routine: Get the kids back to routine. After a year of homeschooling and the following summer, their patterns have gotten very lax. Start as soon as possible sending them to bed and waking them up, getting their body rhythms in tune with the upcoming school days. Also, consider morning activities like breakfast and brushing their teeth.
2. Socialize: Safely get kids together with friends before the school year starts. Set up playdates, encourage outdoor group activities, or just chill hangouts. This might give them something to look forward to about going back.
3. Be parents NOT friends: This one is difficult, but sometimes you have to establish that you make the rules. Especially with younger children, it may be necessary to gently teach your children a sense of responsibility for their actions. For example, explain the negative consequences of skipping out on education.
4. Do a test run: Wake up and get the book bag packed, drive to school, maybe even walk up to the front office or cafeteria (if this is possible with new school safety measures. Each school will be run differently.)
5. Set a good vision and attitude: This starts with listening to and addressing their fears. Talk about it, and try to help them develop a positive, upbeat problem-solving attitude. Positive parents tend to influence their children to be more positive.
If these tips are falling short and you think you need some professional guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Bregman Medical Group has decades of experience treating children and families. We offer online and in-person psychiatry and therapy services. Simply schedule at www.bregmanmd.com or call 305-740-3340.