The Going Back to School Blues...or Worries

How’s your son doing as the school year is beginning? Is your daughter teary during carpool? Just last night I was with a dear friend with five kids, who told me stories of two of hers sobbing on the way to or from school the first week.  It’s completely normal.  And, as a side note, the melt down she had after drop off was normal, too.  These first few weeks of school are a lot…for all of you.

Last year in September, I had five different girls I was counseling between the ages of 8 and 12 who were at Daystar for anxiety.  Some were afraid of throwing up at school, some failing a test, some making new friends.  All were having tummy aches and what we refer to as “looping thoughts” over one subject or another that was causing them extreme worry.  By the time November rolled around, all of these girls were doing much better.  To be honest, I hadn’t done a lot besides listen.  But, as you can guess, they had settled in at school.  They were used to the homework load.  They started to make friends and had adjusted to a new routine.

If your child is struggling in the mornings, here are a few tricks you can try:

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

  • Challenge.  The night before, come up with a specific challenge for school the next day.  You can also make an “I Spy” type of game out of their school day.  They can look for two other kids with red hair or a teacher in a pink shirt, and come home and report to you what they’ve found.  The challenge can also help them reach out by making a goal of talking to one new friend and reconnecting with one friend from last year. 
  • Pray.  Spend time each night in prayer with your child over their school day, asking God to give them courage and to be with them in the midst of it.
  • Talk.  What are the times that are most difficult for them?  Often, kids struggle with the more unstructured times such as lunch and recess.
  • Plan.  What can your child do during those times?  How can they fill their time and be proactive in making friends, rather than reactively pulling away?
  • Memorize.  We often have kids memorize a Scripture that brings them comfort or courage that they can repeat to themselves when they are afraid.  This not only gives them something to focus on, but can be calming as they say the words to themselves repeatedly.

THE MORNING OF:

  • Distract.  Ask them questions on the way to school that are unrelated.  What are they excited about doing after school?  What do they want to do over the weekend?  
  • Incentivize.  What can you look forward to together after school that particular day?  Offer an after school treat in the form of snack or even special time with you if they can bravely face their day.
  • Sing.  Choose a fun, motivating song like “Overcomer,” by Mandisa or Katy Perry’s “Roar” that can help them feel pumped up and courageous.
  • Switch things up.  Often, kids will cry on the way to school with one parent, rather than the other.  Have the parent who doesn’t elicit the tears drive them to school.  Or even a friend of grandparent.
  • Olympic them up.  Come up with a fun game together where everybody stretches, like the Olympic athletes.  Do some arm shakes.  Everyone make a brave face, like Michael Phelps.  Practice silly vocal warm-ups, for talking to friends.

For many kids, just having them re-focus their attention on a goal, rather than their fears will help.  If these things don’t help, we would suggest getting a copy of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety from Tamar Chansky.  She has fantastic, practical ideas of things you can do from home, as well as a thorough, research-based overview of anxiety.  It’s where we tell many folks to start in our offices.  And, if your child is still having trouble after the school schedule has settled, you may want to call a counselor.  Your local church will most likely have resources, or you can check out the American Association of Christian Counseling website.

And join us every week for Technology Tuesday’s and more parenting tips.  We’re glad to join you in your journey!