New School Year Anxiety
Do you have young people in your house who, once the Christmas festivities are over, start to show new school year anxiety? The long Christmas school holidays are nearing an end, and after a much-needed rest, the kids are gearing up to go back to school. This can be an anxious time for children and parents alike, so it’s no surprise that new school year anxiety starts to show as the end of January looms.
Parents (or caregivers) might start to notice some nervousness or anxiety being displayed in their children in the weeks or days leading up to the start of the school year.
There are several reasons your child may be feeling stressed or anxious about starting a new year of school. They could be nervous about making new friends, that the work might be too hard for them, that they may not be able to find the right classroom, will they like their new teachers or even who they will sit with at lunchtime. And while, as adults, these may seem trivial concerns, they are very significant to a young person, and one or all of these reasons or more may be a reason your child is feeling anxious.
What Are Some Signs Of New School Year Anxiety In Children
- They are more clingy than normal
- Fidgety or restless
- Complaining of a sore stomach
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Struggling to concentrate
- Changes in eating habits
- Sudden outbursts of anger
- Unexplained bouts of crying or tantrums
- Changes or increases in toilet visits
Implement A Good Sleep Routine
A few weeks before school is due to start, try to implement a realistic bedtime/sleep routine. For example, try to get your child to go to sleep at a reasonable hour and wake them up at the same time you will be getting ready for school each day. This will hopefully prepare your child for those early morning wake-ups to get ready for school.
As well as implementing a good sleep routine, it is essential to ensure your child gets the right amount of sleep every night. Children not getting adequate sleep can negatively affect their behaviour, health, learning, and well-being. The amount of sleep a child needs varies depending on age, individual needs and activity levels. Generally, these are the guidelines for the required amount of sleep :
- Ages 3-5 years – require an average of 10-13 hours of sleep per night.
- Ages 6-13 years – require an average of 9-11 hours of sleep per night.
- Ages 14-17 years – require an average of 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
Encourage Play Dates
Hopefully, your children have spent the long holidays hanging out with their friends and having fun. Make sure to encourage these playdates/hangouts right up to school starting. Chat with your child’s friend’s parents and arrange a meeting point on the first day so the kids can go to class together. Research shows that the presence of friends during school transitions can improve emotional adjustment to school.
Try to visit the school before the school year begins, and even role-play how the school drop-off will go with your child. Practise walking them to class and hanging their bag up. Play on the playgrounds to breed familiarity for them and help them feel comfortable in the school environment.
Involve Them In The Preparation
Take your child back-to-school shopping. Letting them help with the stationary shopping and picking out some fun book covers can make them feel more excited and positive about returning to school.
Create a positive dialect at home regarding school. Talk cheerfully about the new school year, and reinforce the positive things about returning to school. It is really important that you use positive talk regarding school, as these words can become your children’s inner voice.
Assure Them They Aren’t Alone
Remind your child that they are not the only ones who may be nervous about going back to school. Other children are probably going to be just as nervous as they are about the first day of school. Let them know that the teacher knows children are likely to be nervous and will spend time helping everyone feel more comfortable as they settle into the classroom. It could help to remind your child of a previous situation where they felt a similar feeling of anxiousness in the beginning, but then things turned out just fine. What kind of coping skills did your child use? How could it apply to this situation?
What To Do If Your Child’s Anxiety Is Not Improving
If, after a few weeks, your child’s anxiety has not seemed to improve or even worsen, it may be that they have a generalised anxiety disorder and taking them to see your DR may be the best option.
There are many ways that new school year anxiety or generalised anxiety in children can be addressed. One of the most recommended therapies is Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT teaches the child and the parent skills to confront and manage anxiety.
Ultimately, what is really important is that you are there for your child.
Do not dismiss their fears and worries; listen to their concerns without trying to downplay or minimise their feelings. Knowing that someone understands what they are going through is often enough to help kids get through a difficult situation.