August means it’s time to start thinking about school, dusting off the backpacks, buying pencils, folders, and maybe even a new pair of shoes.
For some parents, the back-to-school season also means preparing kids for the anxiety of a new school year.
Sissy Goff, M. Ed., LPC-MHSP and author said in a Fox News Article between 2 to 5% of school-aged children suffer from school refusal and it usually affects children ages 5 and 6 or 10 and 11 years old.
How can a parent support a child that may be feeling anxious about going back to school?
Talk with your children.
Several weeks before school starts, talk about their classroom, school building, teachers and friends. If they are going to a new school, you can even drive by the school occasionally to get familiar with the area and the outside of the building.
Attend events available at the school.
Offer children as much exposure as possible to the building, meeting the teachers, principals and administrators, as well as other kids in their grade.
If you are able, let them do a walk-through of the school showing them where they will go in the morning, where they will eat lunch, and where you will drop them off and pick them up every day.
Remind them they aren’t alone.
An important tool as a parent is to show empathy toward their nervousness. Let them know you understand what they are feeling, and you are there to talk about it. You can use books like “Fear, Go!” for tools to overcome moments of fear.
Giving children authority helps ease anxiety.
Routines can also provide comfort. Let them be a part of planning the morning. Create a chart that gives them the authority to check off items. This helps them feel a sense of control which can ease anxiety. They can help pick out clothes the day before, choose between different breakfast options, and help pack their lunch. Leave extra time for the morning so you can have a calm presence to help ease any first-day fears.
Goff also said, “The more courage needed for the task, the more confidence they derive from that task. Let’s help kids find their way to more of both confidence and courage. Let’s stop rescuing them and inadvertently communicating to them that rescuing is what they need. They are braver and stronger and smarter than they have any idea. And you are the primary person in their life to help them not only learn but experience that truth.”
How to get kids to talk about their day
As a parent, you may be familiar with the after-school pickup. You’re eager to hear how the day went, interactions with friends, or all about their teacher. But often, these questions can overwhelm a child, especially after a stimulating day outside the home.
And for quiet or introverted kids, these questions can be even harder to process. This is why we commonly hear kids answer with one word or even a shrug or grunt.
How can you create opportunities to hear more about what your child is experiencing at school?
Spark conversation by leaving room for recovery. Let your child relax and take some time to just sit in the quiet car on the way home. It lets their mind process the day without adding extra stimulation through screens or conversation.
After some downtime, try asking open-ended questions. Some days your child may be full of details and other days they may just give you the bare minimum. But it’s a great way to find out information without hearing just the dreaded “fine.”
Praying for your child
Another way to help prepare your child for a new school year is with prayer — pray for your child and their teachers, but also pray with your child. Teach them to use prayer as a resource to wash away fear and talk with God when they are nervous.
We ask you to be with all the parents of schoolchildren and for those homeschooling this week. Give them strength as they begin new routines and ease their fears or any worry they may have.
Prayer for your child:
Calm the hearts and minds of any children who may feel anxious. We pray for protection for every child and ask that they would learn to be strong and kind.
Prayer for your child’s teachers and staff:
Bless the teachers, administrators, school bus drivers, coaches, janitors, and all who work and volunteer in our schools. Give them strength and joy for a new school year.
For many families, back-to-school is just an additional strain in their daily lives. If you need aid, counseling or other support, Buckner Family Hope Center® programs can help strengthen your entire family. There are resources available for both parents and children.
From community events, financial empowerment and more, the Family Hope Center can help you and your family start the school year off on the best foot.