Tips for Helping Kids with Back-to-School Anxiety
If you are like most families you find that some mornings are better than others. There have been several occasions when my daughter is too worked up and decides she doesn't want to go to school. If you think back to your own school years, you might remember that you too had days where you didn't want to go for any number of reasons. It might be that she is feeling anxious about something that happened that week with another child or overly tired from too many activities or just going through a growth spurt.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America calls anxiety disorders the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults and one out of eight children. The effects of anxiety can be far-reaching and paralyzing for children. Kids, school, anxiety often go hand in hand. (Source: Stress Free Kids)
There are ways we can help our children relax and get more centered before they head off to school. On days you find that they are a little off, try to help them become more mindful and present in the moment. Recent studies have found that basic meditation practices and mindfulness exercises can help calm their mind and body and help improve their cognitive control, working memory, emotional intelligence which in turn will help them focus and pay more attention in school.
When my daughter becomes overly anxious or agitated I remind her to take some deep breaths. You can do this together on your living room floor or their bedroom and breath in through your nose and out your mouth. Slowly and with intention. A great suggestion from PBS Parents is to have them pretend to use their fingers like candles and blow them out one by one. A Daniel Tiger song reminds children, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” You can divert them and talk about what type of cake you are blowing candles out from. I find by redirecting the thoughts that are causing my daughter to be anxious has worked liked a charm. By focusing on something fun, like what type of cake you want to make, helps them become more in the moment.
Go for a Walk Together:
Our family goes on nature walks weekly as I have found it be beneficial not only for our health but also mindset. Have your children focus on their surroundings. We live near a park and there are lots of critters and creatures we look for on our walks. You can even download PBS Kids Nature Cat app that helps children focus on their surroundings while outdoors. PBS Kids noted that research indicates that spending time in nature reduces the level of stress hormones in our body.
Talk about emotions:
When you see your child becoming agitated or off (as parents we are so tuned-in to our children's body language) have them talk about what they are feeling. I find that during our nature walks this is the best time for me to find out what is upsetting my daughter. She tends to be in a more relaxed state during this time and will open up more about what might be bothering her. Go through the different emotions they might be experiencing: excited, disappointed, angry, frustrated, anxious, etc., and talk about what might have caused it and how together as a family you might be able to help so they feel more secure and in a calm state of mind.