Which three words do parents love the most come Labour Day? If you hollered, “Back to School,” pumped your fist in the air and shot off some imaginary fireworks, then we’re on the same page.
While many parents celebrate back-to-school, many children feel nervous, uncertain and stressed about returning to the classroom. Dads who see their children having a hard time can also feel this way, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still hanging around. As a registered counsellor providing private video appointments at TELUS Health MyCare, I often field questions from dads about first-day-of-school anxiety, signs of anxiety in kids, and how to help your child cope with back-to-school anxiety.
Let’s take a look at some of the things I hear from a lot of dads:
Why do kids worry about going back to school?
Before the school year even starts, children can develop fears and worries about a wide range of things. Will people like me? Will I get into a class with my friends? What if I’m all alone in a new class? What if school is too hard? Social worries can be especially hard for teens and tweens.
Why do parents worry about going back to school?
As parents, we want our kids to be happy and healthy. So when we see them struggling or don’t know what to expect out of a school year, stress can hit us hard, too. It sure doesn’t help that the pandemic is again making the school year unpredictable and that we don’t really know how unvaccinated kids will be affected this time around.
How can I tell if my child is worried or anxious about going back to school?
Kids will sometimes complain of tummy aches or headaches. They may try to avoid doing things they normally enjoy or get really upset about things that don’t usually bother them. Nightmares, acting extra-tired, or being extra clingy are some other signs.
How can I help ease my child’s anxieties about going back to school?
Check out these great tips for helping your child return to class and being a more connected dad.
Connect with your child
As a therapist of 25 years, I know how important it is to acknowledge a person’s worries. When parents say “don’t worry about it” or “you’ll be fine” as a way to build kids’ confidence and ease their fears, it can actually have the opposite effect. Ignoring emotions doesn’t make them go away.
Instead, try telling them about your own back-to-school worries. Something like, “I used to feel worried when school was starting too,” or, “I remember starting with a new teacher. I worried about it, but it always worked out.” That way, you connect with your child and show them that you’re listening and can help them deal with their worries.
Remember: kids don’t have the life experience that parents have. So it can really help to remind them of the things they have already overcome in their lives, like learning to ride a bike, for instance, or getting rid of their night light to build confidence and resilience for the challenges ahead.
We actually help our kids more by trusting in their ability to cope with things and that some things might not go their way, but they’re still going to be okay in the end.
Create a back-to-school routine
One of the really important things to do is set a school routine a week or so before school actually starts. A loose sleep schedule often takes hold during the summer, with meals at unusual times and bedtime getting later and later. So it’s a good idea to rein that in and start sleeping and eating at regular times that match what you’ll be doing during the school year.
Take your kids shopping for school supplies
Include your kids in getting their back-to-school clothes and picking out something special that gets them excited about going to school, such as school supplies, lunch boxes, and backpacks. You can also help them get organized by putting binders and pencil cases together and packing that backpack like a BOSS!
Show your kids they can rely on you
For parents who are separated, both mom and dad need to be involved as much as possible. It can cause real worry in a little person’s life if they think that mom or dad doesn’t know that they have to be somewhere on the second day of school or that they’re going to be picked up at a certain time. If they see the two parents working together, it will fill them with confidence.
Be present with your family
Last but not least, take a good look at limits on technology use that might need to be in place for a healthy household. Instead of screen time during breakfast, put down your devices and talk about the coming day, week, or month. This builds confidence and also prevents kids from hearing any worrying gossip. Switching off tech later in the day, meanwhile, can help kids focus on their homework.
Put all this together, and “Summer is over!!!!” will be the three words KIDS love most come Labour Day. OK, maybe not, but at least “Back to School” will sound cooler than it ever has.
How do you celebrate the kids going back to school? Share the fun in the comments below!
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