Back To Class Calm: Addressing Anxiety in Kids of All Ages
Now that kids are heading back to school, it’s not uncommon to hear about anxiety cropping up.
Ximena Flanders, PsyD, a pediatric psychologist at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, says there is a heightened sense of social anxiety about so many unknowns. Not only with COVID-19, but also what school is going to look like.
There can be a lot of fear in the unknown, and even adults are struggling with making transitions to their routines.
It’s not surprising, the pandemic has been hard for many kids and parents and transitioning back to in-school learning can be a big adjustment. Dr. Flanders shared the following tips you can use to support your kids so they can reintegrate and start feeling great about returning to school.
Help your child identify what triggers their symptoms of anxiety so you can help them build on coping skills like deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. Mindful meditation or mood tracking apps can help relax their symptoms and better manage their distress.
Add structure whenever possible, because we know that preparedness is an antidote to anxiety. Start working on your morning routine very early so there’s as much predictability for what school is going to look like on day one.
It's really important to praise the effort, not the end result. Build on your child’s self esteem and principles of feeling good with positive encouragement.
Adjust and Acclimate
It can take anywhere between a month to six months to settle in, so give them time. That said, if you notice that your child's not getting back into the groove of things, that's a really good opportunity to seek out some mental health support services.
Empathize and Normalize
Remind your kids that their feelings are valid and it's okay to ask for help. Back to school can bring up big feelings at the best of times and this has been a challenging time for so many families.
Dr. Flanders cautions that scholastically speaking, we'll likely see some regression given how challenging virtual learning has been for some of our youth and we might also see some social emotional regression. Keep this in mind as you observe how your kids are settling into the new school year.
By troubleshooting triggers, promoting predictability, constructing confidence, adjusting and acclimatizing, empathizing and normalizing, our kids will be positioned for an easier return to school. Anxiety can be a challenge, but with the right strategies can get back to laughing and learning.