Back to School Anxiety - the Parent Version
Early school day mornings are often fraught with chaos, precarious multi-tasking, and yelled conversations negotiating logistics and necessary items. When you or your child are anxious about school, there's an extra edge, an extra level of frenzy that can linger long after all the tasks of the morning routine have been checked off. The crawling anxiety that didn't get addressed when you and your partner negotiated who would do pick up from behind the bathroom door or if homework got put back in the backpack while chasing the car down the driveway. Starting school has a lot of importance in a child's and their parents' lives and rarely is something so important free of anxiety. The child is discovering how to belong and succeed. The parent is considering every possible risk that could befall their child - mentally, emotionally, and physically.
American Academy of Pediatrics has some tips to help you get started with the basics:
-How to get to and from school safely, whether bus, car, biking, or walking
-How to support healthy food choices when your child is on their own
-How to support your child through bullying - as target, perpetrator, or by-stander
-How to handle after-school care and activities as a working parent
-Developing an independent learner and student
School is a time for children to encounter and grow through adversity. They need to learn how to modify or filter their behavior in order to achieve goals and expectations. This is the training ground for self regulation and internal motivation. There will be hard days and failures. Maybe you're worried for your child because every afternoon, they collapse or explode into melt downs. This is normal; children like adults need the space to navigate their challenges in order to grow new skills and sometimes they need the space to just spin out.
To help kids deal with difficult emotions like disappointment, failure, isolation, hurt, and yes sometimes burnout, it can help to read books that discuss parallel situations. This offers your child the opportunity to view the problem or challenging experience from outside the intense emotions of their own circumstance. AAP has put together a list of books that teach values and character traits to handle adversity. Your local librarians also work hard to put together lists of books to address specific topics. You will be amazed at the resources your local library can put in your hands.
You can also find articles regarding specific concerns all throughout the HealthyChildren.org website, but please also address concerns with your pediatrician. Every child is unique and general guidelines sometimes need to be tailored to your child's individual needs and situation. But more importantly, we want to hear from you. What's been working for you and your family, what's just not coming together? You are the single most important resource to your child, if we know what you're struggling with (all of us parents have something), we can help arm you with knowledge, validation, community, and resources.