Starting School with Anxiety
Starting school can be an extremely stressful time for many kids. I still remember every year it was a little scary for me. I did not know my teachers, what they would expect, or if I would feel accepted by my peers. Even after 21 years of schooling, I still got nervous each time new classes started up. While these feeling are normal, and to be expected to some extent, some of our kids suffer great anxiety with the start of the school year. With anxiety, you are your worst enemy. Our brains are always learning, whether we want them to or not. What we learn is not always accurate. Our emotions and brains are tied together; they cannot be separated. Our brains think that the stronger an emotion is the more it must be true. Then, it attacks us back the other direction and our thoughts trigger stronger emotions. Boom! a terrible cycle is born. This is functional when we think about falling off a cliff, as it would prevent us from doing just that, but it is not so helpful when it is about school. School is not the same as falling off a cliff, it is an essential part of a child’s development and is necessary for a child’s future. Kids can face their start-of-school anxiety. Here are a few tips to face start-of-school anxiety:
1. The best thing to get rid of anxiety is to face it. When you run away, there is an immediate sense of relief, but this strengthens the
anxiety over time and it gets worse. Now, for those with severe anxiety, this statement is like saying, “If you cut of your arm off, over time you will be happy you did.” It sounds ridiculous. The problem is that the emotion is real, but the fear is not. The skills here is to do the opposite until the correct emotions catch up. If your child cannot handle big changes, start with predetermined small steps and gradually grow to bigger ones as your child gets comfortable with the changes. It is better to start small and not give up, than to start big and fail.
2. Relax. What feels good or is soothing to you? What one person likes, another one hates. For example, taking a hot bath…some think that is amazing, and some think it is medieval torture. Find what your child likes to do to relax.
3. Focus on the moment. Most of our emotional suffering come from thoughts about the past and/or the future. They are both not happening right now. Help your child to focus where they are at: notice the clouds, the scents around them, or their breath.
4. Remember even if the anxiety does not make sense, the feeling is still real. If you have tried to solve this on your own and have been unsuccessful, it may be time to consider seeing a mental health therapist. They can help your child work through the challenge. With good treatment, the research leans positively towards curing and/or lowering anxiety.