Back-to-school season can often trigger feelings of anxiety and stress for both parents and children. Navigating the shift from carefree summer days to structured school routines may be challenging, but with thoughtful strategies and open communication, this transition can become a much more manageable experience. Nearly half of all children experience school-related stress, according to the American Psychological Association. Moreover, a National Institute of Mental Health survey disclosed that 25% of teenagers have anxiety disorders, stressing the importance of implementing effective coping strategies.
Understanding Real-Life Stressors for Kids
In an effort to better understand the types of stressors children face when going back to school, Give an Hour staffers turned to their own kids.
Here’s what they said:
- “I get stressed by other kids – and worry about making new friends.”
- “I panic about getting up on time and feeling tired and drained because I got used to being at home.”
- “I get annoyed really easily and I can’t manage my worries very well.”
- “I’m starting in a new school, and I feel worried about getting lost or not knowing where to go or who to ask for help.”
- “I hope I don’t get bullied.”
Practical Tips for Caregivers
Here are some actionable tips to help your child navigate their specific stressors:
- Communication is Key: Encourage your child to express their feelings and worries about returning to school. Validate their concerns and work together to find solutions.
- Establish a Routine: Adjust bedtimes, mealtimes, and study times a few weeks before school starts to help your child get used to the new schedule.
- Practice Empathy and Reassurance: Remind your child that it’s normal to feel nervous about making new friends or starting in a new school. Share your own experiences of feeling the same way and how you managed them.
- Encourage Self-care: Teach your child about the importance of taking care of their physical health, such as getting enough sleep and eating healthy meals, to support their mental wellbeing.
- Organize and Prepare: Help your child familiarize themselves with their school environment and schedule. Visit the school before classes start and find their classrooms, the restroom, the cafeteria, etc.
Practical Tips for Students
- Stay Active: Regular physical activity can reduce feelings of anxiety and improve mood, and clubs and sports activities are great places to meet and make new friends!
- Practice Mindfulness: Techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can help manage stress.
- How do we explain mindfulness to our kids, try this: Mindfulness is like a superpower that we all have but just need to practice using. It’s our ability to fully pay attention to what’s happening in the ‘right now’ moment. It’s like when you’re eating your favorite ice cream, and you pay attention to its taste and how much you’re enjoying it. Or when you’re playing your favorite game and you’re so into it that you don’t think about anything else – that’s being mindful! Practicing mindfulness helps us to enjoy our lives more and feel calmer and happier. It’s like training our brain to be a good friend to us, helping us feel good and make better decisions.
- Stay Connected: Foster friendships and social connections. Peer support can greatly alleviate stress.
Centering Activity for Kids and Parents
Activity: The “Five Senses Exercise” is a simple and effective centering activity. It helps bring attention to the present moment, reducing feelings of anxiety.
Here’s how you do it:
- See: Ask your child to name five things they can see around them.
- Touch: Have your child touch four different objects and describe how each feels.
- Hear: Ask your child to close their eyes and identify three sounds they hear.
- Smell: Have them identify two scents in their environment.
- Taste: Lastly, have your child describe something they can taste, like a piece of fruit or a sip of water.
For more mental health resources and guides, visit www.giveanhour.org.