Excerpt from: Back to School Tips for Parents-Children's Mental Health, Ontario
Looking for ways to meet the needs of a child who is trying to cope with feelings of anxiety about heading back to school? Here are a few tips.
Accept and validate your child’s emotions. Let your child know that their feelings make sense (“Everyone is feeling a bit anxious and uncertain right now. It makes sense that you would be feeling that way, too”) and make sure your child understands that there’s no such thing as a “bad” or “wrong” emotion. It’s okay to be feeling whatever it is they’re feeling.
Look for opportunities to address your child’s specific worries and concerns in an age-appropriate way. This might mean helping them to find answer to their biggest questions or role-playing particular scenarios that are causing them undue stress. You might also want to encourage them to zero in on coping strategies that have worked well for them in the past. They might want to work those strategies again.
Remind your child that they can turn to other people for support, both at home and at school. They don’t have to handle this on their own. If your child has some special needs (perhaps an underlying mental health issue or behavioral challenge), ask your child’s school what strategies they recommend for easing your child’s transition back to school. Maybe it might make sense for your child to start school before or after their peers—or to initially attend school for just a couple of hours at a time.
Recognize the opportunity you are being given in this moment. The literature on resilience is clear: children are capable of weathering even the stormiest of storms if they can rely on the love and support of at least one caring adult. You have the opportunity to be that person—an emotional anchor in an otherwise stormy sea.
TIP:Feel like you and your child would benefit from some added support right now? You’re certainly in good company. Four out of five parents who responded to our most recent parent survey told us that they were open to the idea of reaching out to a child and youth mental health centre for support. In terms of the specific supports they are seeking, they told us that they are interested in in-personal appointments and virtual appointments with a clinician or therapist; peer support from other families who are grappling with the same kinds of worries and concerns; and access to online articles, webinars, and other information highlighting strategies for coping with the challenges of back-to-school time.
Author: Ann Douglas , Children's Mental Health Ontario, Back-to-School Tips for Parents | Children's Mental Health Ontario (cmho.org)