School anxiety is a very real thing. Whether it be the very first day of school, or they’re heading back to primary or secondary, there will always be some nervousness. Will their friends still like them? Will they get teased about body changes? Are they wearing their backpack right? Who is their teacher this term?
Growing up is a time of great change, it can be frightening and all children want is to fit in and be accepted by their peers.
You must be their pillar of strength.
In the days before and after they start, encourage your child to talk to you. Ask whether they’re excited or nervous, and what makes them nervous. Sometimes, the simple act of saying something out loud can mitigate a fear. But if that does not work, don’t simply reassure – problem solve and plan what they can do should they face a nerve-wracking situation. Role-play is a great technique.
If you sense your child is engaging in repetitive negative thought patterns, get them to focus on the fun aspects of going back to school. Ask them whether they’re excited to see their friends, or whether they have got anything fun planned. What playground equipment is their favourite? This way they’re not stewing on the negatives.
Anxious children can often go off food and sleep, which means they will not be operating at full capacity when they DO go back. So, ensure they are eating and sleeping right. Provide filling snacks, and enforce an evening routine in the weeks before they go back.
Also, be aware of your own behaviour. It’s easy to overlook this, but trust us, children are great at picking up emotional cues from their parents – the more confident and comforting you are, the more relaxed they will be.