Is your child having back-to-school worries? This year feels especially stressful and scary for many parents, students, and teachers thanks to the latest Covid surge. There are many things you can do to help your child not be scared about going back to school this fall. (And many of these tricks will work great for you as well!)
How to Talk About Back to School Worries
While you may wonder if talking about your child’s fears will make them worse, the reality is, that worries and fears need to be addressed. Ignoring them rarely makes them just disappear. If your child is showing signs of being worried, anxious, scared, or overwhelmed, it is time to act. Find a time to sit down and talk with them about what is bothering them.
Signs of Back to School Worries in Kids
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your child is feeling worried or scared. Many kids don’t yet have the emotional maturity to be able to express their feelings in words. If you see your child acting out, behaving unusually, withdrawing from you or their friends, or becoming overly clingy or needy, these could be signs that there are some big emotions going on.
If your child falls into this category of kids who struggle to express their feelings verbally, here are some ideas for exploring their back to school worries that don’t involve in-depth conversations:
- Use an art journal with your child. Choose a prompt such as: draw how you are feeling about going back to school, or draw me what the first day of school will be like? As your child is drawing, ask questions and encourage them to dig deep and add lots of details. The more details, the more information you have!
- For younger kids, play acting back-to-school can give you a lot of information. For example, your child may be worried that they won’t have any friends or that their teacher might be mean. These kind of nuggets will often come out while playing if you watch for them.
- Have your child write a book or a letter for a friend, neighbor, sibling, or other child who is going into the grade below them. Prompt them to give advice on how to handle anything that might come up. You can also encourage them to include details about the first day, being in the lunch room, recess, classwork, etc.
Activities to Calm Back to School Worries
In My Control/Out of My Control
For this activity, have your child draw a shape in the middle of their paper. It could be a heart, a circle, their hand, or really anything. Then, prompt them to think about what they are worried about. Have them write things that they could do inside of the shape (in my control.) Also, have them write things that they can’t control or that they are worried about on the outside of the shape (out of my control.) Here is an example:
Practice Coping Skills
Skills such as deep breathing can really help kids manage their back-to-school worries. Check out this article for all kinds of different coping skills and find one or two that your child likes. Make it a habit to practice the skill regularly so that they can easily use it anytime they feel worried about going back to school.
I also have a calm down coping skills bundle available in the store if you prefer more tangible resources.
Sometimes when kids get worried about something like going back to school, their mind can run away from them into “what ifs”. Practicing mindfulness can help kids stay in the moment rather than worry about what may or may not happen in the future. One great mindfulness tool that can be really grounding is the 4,3,2,1 finger tapping technique. To do this, touch your thumb to your pinky finger and say 1, then thumb to your ring finger and say 2, then thumb to your middle finger and say 3, and then thumb to your pointer finger and say 4. Next, go back down. Thumb to pointer and say 4, thumb to middle and say 3, thumb to ring and say 2, thumb to pinky and say 1. Repeat this 10 times focusing your mind on breathing and counting.
Addressing Back to School Worries in the Classroom
If you are a teacher looking for resources to use with your students, I have many different options that will help individual students as well as whole classes. This article here is a great option for creating a calm down area in your classroom. And this article offers resources for calm-down activities. One of my favorite tools is the Virtual Calm Down Kit which transitions really well between virtual and in-person learning.