I always hated going back to school and leaving summer vacation behind. I would get anxious about the new year, wondering what friends I’d have in my class and which teacher I’d get. And I would worry about hypothetical tests and projects that I just knew I’d get bad grades on. There was such a heaviness when school rolled around, erasing all the chill I had acquired that summer.
I can’t imagine what it’s like as a kid now. They’re dealing with so much more: the pandemic, trauma of frequent school shootings and increased bullying. It’s scary, and it’s something that none of our generations has seen before.
So here’s what I’m going to do with my soon-to-be second grader and Kindergartener to help with the transition. I hope it helps our collective mental health.
- We’re going to get back into our school routine, i.e. waking up earlier, getting dressed first thing and eating breakfast right away
- Talk about what’s making them nervous. Both of my kids have new teachers this year, so I know that’s a source of anxiety. We can talk about that and anything else that’s bothering them.
- Empathize with my kids. Whatever it is that’s causing anxiety, I need to listen and show empathy. I’ll try not to brush off their feelings, instead I’ll validate their worries and concerns.
- I’ll encourage my kids to talk about their fears or how their day went. I’ll also give them tips on self-care (healthy self-care and coping skills) and how it can help their stress levels.
- I’ll be present. When my kids get home, I’ll push my work aside, put my phone away and concentrate on them. They may want alone time to decompress, but they will know that I’m available and there.
Signs of Anxiety in Kids (www.verywellfamily.com)
- Appear more clingy than normal
- Be restless and fidgety
- Complain of stomachaches
- Display changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Express negative thoughts or worries
- Get upset or angry more quickly
- Have bouts of unexplained crying
- Struggle to concentrate
To learn more about kids and mental health, please visit the NAMI.org website.