Starting up at school is one thing, getting into a good routine and reducing your child’s anxiety is another (and it isn’t easy). After nearly 20 years of being an educator and guidance counsellor, I have assembled some ‘tried and true’ tips to help reduce anxiety, create solid routines and make life easier for everyone in your family.
- Ask your child(ren) to identify what their worries are specifically – make the list and discuss each one (try to avoid thinking to yourself that they are big or small-treat them all equally).
- Make a chart of “Things I Can Change” and “Things I Can’t Change” so that they can feel more in control of their worries and fears and help them to recognize what is in and out of their control and to focus their time on the things they can change or control.
- Identify how you and they notice they are stressed or worried (physical, social and emotional reactions and changes).
- Ask them to create a plan of things that they can do to feel better when they are anxious and share the plan with their teacher(s).
- Give your child some trinket or piece of cloth for their pocket to touch when they are beginning to feel anxious.
- Use an alarm sound and not the radio with your child in the morning, the radio is easy to listen to and doesn’t make your child want to jump out of bed – the alarm is annoying!
- Make a list with your child about friends and staff at school that they can talk to and that know how they feel when they are anxious.
- Write all of their worries down and then put them in your wallet or purse and let your child(ren) know that you are carrying them too and hopefully taking them away a little or ‘easing the load’.
- Ensure that you and your child(ren) are organized and ready to begin school (research shows that the more organized and prepared a child is, the lower the anxiety).
- Have your child draw a map of their school and label their classroom, the route to the bathroom, library, gym, yard, front office, etc.
- Read the book “The Kissing Hand” with your child (aged 8 and under) before school begins and come up with your own ritual.
- Have your child choose their clothes the night before to reduce morning rushing.
- Put hooks up by the door specifically for bags/backpacks and make it a routine to have it packed and ready the night before so it can always be found and is easy to grab running out the door.
- Work out well in advance how you will communicate with your child’s school and how you will get information about what is happening, events and activities (website, email, newsletters, etc.). Also find out what time of the month the newsletters come out so you know when to expect them.
- Add the school’s website to your favourites and check it regularly to keep up with what is happening at the school.
- Make a set time to complete homework, assignments, fill out forms, etc. each night (right after school, before dinner, after dinner, etc.)
Other great resources:
- For grades 1-4 – “I Bet I Won’t Fret” or “What to Do When You Worry Too Much” are helpful guides/workbooks
- For grade 5-8 – “Anxiety Workbook for Teens” would be helpful resource
- Courage By: Bernard Waber
- When My Worries Get Too Big By: K. Buron
- David and The Worry Beast By: A. Guanci
- A Boy and A Bear By: Lori Lite
- The Invisible String By: Patrice Karst