Quick, easy tips
Practically every second kid in BC is anxious about going back to school according to the 2011 National Angus Reid Survey—and with the teacher’s strike in BC this year, it’s not only children who are feeling uncertain about the fall changeover. Having a couple of kids myself—and with a clear memory of what that sinking feeling feels like—I can relate. So this is what I tell myself every year as the kids go back:
Reminding yourself and your kids that back to school jitters are normal actually helps you—and your kids—feel better. The fact that 47% of all BC kids experience some anxiety about getting back into the groove of everyday life at school is proof. The main reasons cited were new teachers and new schedules. We all know that new situations cause most everyone to feel unsettled, so getting back into the routine before that dreaded day helps.
Start the routine early
Start getting the kids up and off to bed early sooner rather than later. Chances are you’ve slipped up on bedtime routines due to summer fun, so get back into reading fairy tales before bed, sneaking an early bath in, brewing a warm chamomile tea and whatever else works for your family (and it better not be TV or video games). My personal trick is to set the clocks at least 10-15 minutes ahead of schedule, which only works for little awhile, but helps with the change in routines. No telling!
Take some of the “newness” out
Another trick is to make a trip out to school before school actually starts. Let the kids play in the playground and just check out their school whether it’s new for them or not. Including the kids in their back to school shopping, allowing them to choose a few (healthy) treats in their recess snacks and make lunch choices brings the routine back in a fun way and gets them prepared. When they make some of their own decisions about what to bring and what to eat, it helps give them some control and helps with confidence.
It’s okay to be scared
Parents often feel uncomfortable when their kids are hurting, or worried, and rightly so. It’s our job to protect them from harm. But we have to be okay with our children experiencing fears because overcoming fears is how they build confidence. Talking about fears and anxieties allows children to cope better, even when we can’t fix it for them (and with back to school anxiety, there is nothing to fix). Just being a conduit for your child to express him or herself regularly is crucial, not only for their mental health now, but to maintain that bond for those times when s/he may really need it, like–heaven forbid–bullying, failing tests or having some kind of accident. If your child does not like to share, it may work to share a story of your own—not in lecture-style, but in short story form.
Be happy and give love
Easier said than done, I know, but the child is the barometer of the parents. If we can be relaxed and happy in the last few days of their holidays, then our kids are more likely to be that way too. If you can, take it easy, enjoy life and give them lots of love (not toys, not chocolates, just love). Love provides comfort and resilience to stress.
When all else fails
Okay, you have done everything and more and your child is still freaking out? I don’t like to recommend remedies, however natural, for life’s ups and downs, but when emotions get extreme or stick, then homeopathy can work wonders. Two remedies for anticipatory anxiety are Argentum nitritum and Gelsemium. Give Gelsemium 30 c if your child is feeling so anxious that she feels weak, spaced out or gets sick. Gelsemium is usually my first choice. However, if your child feels wired, jittery and restless instead, Argentum nitricum 30c is the better choice. Give 3-5 pills on the tongue once or twice daily for a few days before school, or just use it as needed when feeling anxious. It is not recommended to repeat the remedies indefinitely, so if the problem does not pass or keeps appearing, you need to seek the advice of a homeopath.
The first day of school…
On the first day of school, I plan to have my kids as prepared as they can possibly be: I wake them up early enough for a calm morning routine, give them a good, healthy breakfast and send them off a little early—with lots and lots of love. Of course, that’s no guarantee it will go glitch-free, but then that’s the fun of being a parent. Otherwise, we’d never have any stories to tell. For more back to school coping tips, you can also check out the Anxiety BC Website.