7 Tips to Ease Back-to-School Anxiety
It is normal and understandable for children to experience anxiety about going back to school after a long summer break. Some may feel nervous about starting school for the first time. Parents can help ease the transition back to school by recognizing the symptoms of stress and anxiety and implementing some creative strategies.
Dr. Matthew Lederman, a board-certified Internal Medicine physician, expert in empathetic communication and NVC practitioner, recommends Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as a powerful tool that can help ease the transition. Nonviolent Communication can foster a stronger and more meaningful connection between parents and children, as it empowers parents and children to express emotions, needs, and concerns more effectively.
Dr. Matthew Lederman shares some practical tips and strategies for parents to incorporate NVC techniques in their interactions with their children, when going back to school. Here are some steps you can follow:
Present a Safe Space
To create a safe space for your child, find a quiet place in the house where you can talk without distractions. Let your child know that he or she can discuss any concerns or feelings in this space. Avoid distractions from phones or television, or other members of the family. Focus on listening and being present with your child instead of thinking about what you need to do to fix the situation.
Do Not Interrupt
When listening to a child’s concerns, be sure not to interrupt or judge. Show empathy by nodding, maintaining eye contact and using verbal cues like “I see,” or, “That sounds tough.” This will help your child feel heard and validated.
You can help the other person feel understood and less alone by validating their feelings. For example, you might say, “It sounds like you’re feeling anxious about going back to school and worried about fitting in. Is that right?”
Encourage your child to share his or her concerns and fears about returning to school by asking questions that require more than a yes or no response. For example, you might ask, “What specifically worries you about going back to school?” Most suffering stems not from unpleasant feelings but from holding unpleasant feelings alone.
Find Solutions, Together
Brainstorm with your child about possible solutions to their problem. Listen to what they have to say, and let them know that you value their input and trust their ability to care for their own needs. This will empower them to solve problems on their own in the future.
Try a Mantra
Mantras are positive affirmations or phrases that can be repeated to a child when he or she is feeling anxious. Examples include, “I am capable and strong,” or, “I can handle anything that comes my way.” This helps regulate the nervous system and create self-connection that stimulates a sense of safety.
Help your child develop self-care routines to manage stress and anxiety. Encourage them to practice deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, physical exercise, or engaging in hobbies they enjoy. Taking care of their well-being can help them feel more resilient and grounded.