The prospect of going back to school can send many children into a worried state of mind. Whether their fear is based on real experiences or imaginary woes, many children dread going back to school because of social anxiety, fear of failing their classes, or any number of other reasons. To calm their child’s worries, parents must be adept at getting to the root of the fear and addressing the real issues behind it.
* Pinpoint the problem. When parents don’t take the time to talk through their child’s anxiety about returning to school, they do not effectively help their child process their worry. If your child seems worried, ask him or her why they do not want to return to school. Rather than accept a general answer such as “I don’t like it”, probe a little further by asking, “What don’t you like about school? Does it have to do with your class, your teacher, or your friends?” As soon as parents pinpoint the real problem, they are on their way to determining a workable solution.
* Brainstorm solutions to the problem with your child. Once you have determined the source of your child’s worry, ask him or her how you can address the problem. For example, if your child is worried because their best friend moved away during the summer and they may have no friends at school, ask your child if he or she would like to have a dinner party and invite over some people from their class. Many schools publish class lists a week or so prior to school starting. Go out of your way to meet the parents of the children in your child’s class and reach out to them to develop a relationship. If your child is worried about academics, offer to brush up on some subjects in the weeks prior to school starting.
* Role play scenarios with your child. If your child knows how he or she will address a particular situation at school, they are more likely to succeed should it ever happen. Sometimes it helps for parents and children to role play possible scenarios at school such as being bullied or approaching a new person on the playground.
* Talk with your child on an ongoing basis. Talking keeps the doors of communication open and will help your child to articulate his or her fears. You may want to share stories from your own school days to make your child feel more comfortable. Your child needs to know that you are “on their side” and are more than willing to help them. We often fear what has already happened to us. Ask your child if he or she experienced something difficult during the previous school year, and talk about how that experience made them feel.
Many back to school fears dissipate once children return to school and become engaged in their schoolwork. Remain patient with your child during the tenuous weeks and days prior to the first day of school, reassuring him or her that they can face their fears and look forward to the positive aspects of school.