Are you or someone you care about experiencing the “back to school jitters?” Here are a few tips and reflective questions to help set caregivers up for success:
1) Prepare yourself first. Have your sleeping habits gotten a little out of whack? Does your house feel cluttered or messy? Ask yourself: What do I need to do to be at my best?
2) Practice self-compassion to buffer against taking our children’s reactions personally or feeling like a failure in the face of challenges. Ask yourself: What aspects of this transition are making me feel most vulnerable and what do I need to tell myself to be a kind friend during stressful times?
3) Keep in mind each child’s unique personality and coping styles when helping them prepare for change. For some, planning and talking in advance helps to decrease worries while this can increase fears for others. Ask yourself: What things have I done in the past that have helped transition times? We go for a trial walk the day before school. This brings out a lot of feelings but I find it is easier to provide empathy when I’m not also feeling rushed.
4) Get curious instead of critical. Try to see the situation through your child’s eyes and validate that change and unknowns can be scary. Help him explore how he feels worrying will or has helped in the past. Then slowly invite her to look at how our worry bullies can and have done more harm than good. Ask yourself: What are some of my fears and worries?
5) Move from worry to wonder and wisdom. Make a list of the unknowns about a new class, a new teacher etc. and then have fun, even get silly coming up with possibilities for what might be. Ask yourself: What are some examples from my own life or in my children’s life where I’ve been pleasantly surprised or the outcome has been better than we expected?
6) Find ways for children to feel empowered and get excited for back to school. At the heart of people’s struggles with anxiety is often a fear of losing control. Ask yourself: What are some simple tasks I can give to my children to help them feel some small sense of control? Ideas could include: having them pick out items at the grocery store and/or pack their lunch, pick out their clothes or planning the first meal or the end of the week’s celebration.
7) Get creative. We all have favourite ways to express and process our feelings. There are lots of great books to choose from. Others might value writing or the arts.
8) Celebrate and appreciate all the joy and beauty you experienced this summer. The more we fill our hearts with gratitude, the less room there is for worry and conflict.
9) Count your blessings and give back to the community. Everyone will benefit. The local United Way campaign kick off is Sept 15th. I’ll be there!
10) Breathe and visualize a successful but not necessarily perfect transition. Be open to the opportunities for you and your family to learn and grow and bounce back from life challenges.
Need support with yours or your children’s anxiety? Our walk-in counselling clinic runs weekly from 1-7 pm Thursdays. We can help!
Nicole August 2016