Kids Email has been asked to participate in a back to school series. Check out the 45 Days of Back to School Ideas here or at the end of this post.
This blog post is coming from a very personal place today, and any suggestions or opinions in this post are what works best for me as a parent and also what’s worked best for my anxiety prone daughter. Maybe this post will give other parents some insights or ideas on how to treat and help their own child who suffers from anxiety- but mostly anxiety caused by back-to-school time.
Most kids go through times when anxiety is higher than normal. Academic tests or a big game or a performance can set anyone off into a panic ridden frenzy. This is normal. Stress and anxiety are part of development and adult life. Most kids will develop and grow out of their triggers, while some kids display a higher level of anxiety and need a little extra guidance to learn coping strategies.
My daughter has suffered from anxiety ever since she was a baby. We realized her anxiety was getting serious when she’d have night terrors and she wasn’t able to handle small changes in her day; staying up later, small changes in meal times, or maybe a random event. She’s a highly sensitive little girl and has a very difficult time adjusting to change at all, but especially changes in her schedule. While she has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, we treat it as best we can. Trying to stay ahead of her triggers and helping her manage her stress has been a real trial and error. My daughter’s anxiety may be worse than most kids but how we manage it can be done with any level of anxiety.
When back-to-school comes around getting back to a tight schedule takes time. I run a strict schedule during the school year and I’ve noticed my daughter responds well to it. She knows what to expect, when to expect, and where to expect most everything throughout her day, leaving little if any questions. But my daughter does have triggers (things that can set off her anxiety) that sometimes a tight schedule can’t always help with.
Learning what a triggers your child is critical. These triggers may not always be avoided, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t through years of trial and error. My daughter’s triggers have changed as she gets older, so we are constantly adjusting and trying out different techniques. Hey, some things work and some don’t. If it works for me it may not work for you. The most important thing is learning how to work through the anxiety and possibly overcoming the trigger.
A huge trigger we’ve yet to defeat is back-to-school. Here are some things that work for my daughter when she heads out on the morning bus.
1. Missing her loved ones is a trigger for my little girl. Because of this I give her a picture of myself or of the family that she’s able keep in her pocket or in her backpack. When she feels anxious she’s able to look at the picture and see the people who love her the most. This tangible piece of her family has been one of the biggest helps in her anxiety. By the end of the year the picture is usually tattered and torn, but I know it was well worth it.
2. When she leaves for the day I usually say something like “See you soon,” or “I’ll see you in a few hours,” or ” See you in a bit.” I’ve learned that long amounts of time away from home are a trigger for her anxiety, but when I refer to the school day as a shorter period it seems to ease her mind.
3. I try (but its not always perfect) to have an easy morning before she gets on the bus. I have 3 daughters that share a bathroom and sometimes the mornings can get quite hairy- literally. Making the mornings run calm and smooth help not only my anxious daughter, but all the other kids as well. Having breakfast ready, making the kids choose their clothes the night before, making sure backpacks are ready to go the night before, and sticking with a definite schedule makes a huge difference in easing any possible triggers.
4. I always feed my kids breakfast in the morning- and I try to make it as healthy as I can. Having low blood sugar for my daughter can trigger her anxiety. Simple things like toast and eggs, or a ham and egg sandwich keeps her tummy full until lunch time. Protein is key here.
5. I always inform my daughters’ teacher and principal that she is prone to anxiety. I let them know her symptoms (the biggest being an upset stomach) and ask them to let her call me if she’s having a difficult time. I’ve yet to run across any teacher who has been unwilling to help out.
6. My husband and I tell her we love her constantly, give her hugs, and reassure her no matter how often she needs the comfort.
7. My daughter does yoga. This helps her to stay focused on her body for the length of the video, strengthens her balance, and demonstrates calm breathing. THIS HAS HELPED HER SO MUCH. I searched “kids yoga” on youtube and she’s found a couple of series she loves.
8. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Being overly tired is a trigger for my daughter which can make for a very difficult day.
Some days are hectic. Some days are easy. Some days I literally want to give up and never leave my bed. Dealing with an anxious child can bring out feelings I never expected as a parent. Triggers will always be there and while we can’t avoid them all of the time, learning how to cope and see through the anxiety can bring my child strength in herself.
Back -to-school is such a fun time. Hopefully with these easy techniques you can find what works for your child and make the transition from summer to fall a positive and calm one.