Back to school for a new year is a big deal for all kids. I remember when I was a kid I used to worry about whether my friends would be in my class, even right up to year 5 and 6. I was definitely not a confident kid (some may find that hard to believe now :)). So I absolutely understand what kids are feeling when it comes to the start of the new year and settling in to new routines, new teachers, new classmates and lots of new!
For kids to be feeling anxious or worried at this time of year is absolutely normal and natural. Some kids may feel more confident and able to adjust better than others, but if your kid is not that person, even in week 4 of Term 1, they are not broken, they just need more support.
As humans our safe place is with the people we are most attached to, for our kids, that’s us parents. So when we separate from our kids and send them off into the world, its only natural for them to feel anxious. What is also natural for children is resilience and bravery. So this is where we need to encourage our children to move through their fears. I love Glennon Doyle and her quote “we can do hard things”, because that is exactly what our kids need to do, they need to do the thing that’s hard for them, they need to separate and build their courage muscles.
We know it’s tough for them but we also know they have to do these things to grow. We know they are having big emotions, but we also know we need to feel those big emotions, face them with curiosity and push through so we get to the other side.
So how do we manage our kids anxiety when its at it’s worst? I remember reading an article by Karen Young from Hey Sigmund and she said, ‘we can’t get rid of our kids anxiety but we can help them to feel a little bigger in its presence’. Isn’t that gorgeous? We build them up to be brave, to change the story about anxiety, that it is there to protect them but also make them a #warriorkid because they can face their fears, see what the anxiety is getting in the way of (for example, them making new friends, learning new interesting things, having great adventures at school and fun play time etc.).
If they can feel even a little bit warrior when they feel anxious they can take small steps forward.
What else can you do as a parent when you’re in the thick of it with an anxious child…………………….?
- Validate their feelings – tell them it makes sense to feel anxious or worried, they are about to do something tough and therefore something really brave.
- Get to know their teacher and build a relationship early on so the teacher can also become a safe adult for your child.
- Make it a quick goodbye – as hard as it is for you to leave your crying child, they are safe, the tears will stop and you are helping them understand that they can do hard things.
- Be firm but kind with your child – assure them you know they will be safe, their teacher is looking forward to teaching them and you can’t wait to hear about their day later.
- Hold space for them – sometimes you just need to let them feel their feelings before they can feel brave enough to let you go. Let them know you know its hard, and you know they can do it.
- Remember to be gentle, with yourself and your child, building resilience takes time.