Some children will run happily into the school playground and give their parents a fleeting goodbye before they head in for the day. Others find school a lot more traumatic. They cling to their mum or dad's legs, ask not to go, throw tantrums in the car and in the playground. They are stressed out and so are the mums and dads who are trying their best to encourage their children to go to and enjoy school. Their anxiety is understandable, starting preschool or school is a massive change to life as they have known it. There are new faces, rules to learn, different tasks and activities to do. It can be a bit much to deal with.
There are ways to help children cope with their anxiety more effectively.
- Try and stay as calm as you possibly can. Seeing your child so distraught will cause anxiety for yourself so concentrate on breathing and not reacting too quickly. If they feel your anxiety it will heighten their own.
- Show your child that what they are feeling is totally understandable. Validate their emotions by letting them know that you fully understand their emotions and you sense that they are nervous and worried. Don’t tell them not to worry or that they’ll be fine. Validating their concerns shows your child that they are being listened to and that you understand how they feel. It’s also important that you validate your own emotions and anxiety too!
- Speak to your child and ask them questions about what experiences in the school day make them feel nervous, worried or scared. Don’t put words in their mouth and remember to validate throughout the conversation. Don’t press the conversation too much if your child doesn’t want to talk at that moment.
- Try to find out what your child finds stressful, validate the emotions and then try to find reasons or possible causes and/or solutions to the stressful feelings and situation. Ask your child how you could help them make it easier and ask if they would like the teacher to know what could improve the situation from their point of view.
Work with the teachers and the school. They are there to assist you and want to help your child with the transition. They will have plenty of experience to draw on and will understand how you and your child are feeling.
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