Back to school nerves kicking in?

Just as you got used to the idea of having your children around the house 24/7 the time has already come when the new school year is about to start! Has your child’s behaviour shown signs of change? Are they beginning to act out or show signs of anxiety? We can all relate to the nerves associated with going back to school or work. The thought of returning to everyday life after a holiday is daunting for us adults, so if we’re feeling it, imagine just how much worry your children are facing. 

How many times have you been worried about a situation and just decided to avoid it? As adults we quite often choose the avoidance technique, however, for our children this is not always an option. Our children have less control over situations, and this is a common cause for the anxiety they face. 

Confused because “my kid loves school though”. In my experience as a teacher I can say that most, not all, but most children do love school. This being the case, coming back after a lovely summer holiday can still be a daunting and very worrying time. It’s the beginning of the unknown. A new teacher, new routines, potentially new classmates, more challenging work, spending the day sitting down, all of which can be a big deal to children. On top of that there could be friendship worries or past experiences also bothering them.

Anxiety is a vicious cycle. When we worry our subconscious mind is alerted. Its running on adrenaline, giving us the feeling of butterflies in our tummy, feeling sick, sweating as well as focusing its attention on danger and other physical things. We remain in fight or flight mode. All these negative thoughts and feelings alter our behaviour. We may get angry more easily, start crying over small situations, go quiet, struggle with sleeping patterns and even become aggressive. When our behaviour changes the way people react to us also changes which further feeds the subconscious validating our anxieties. 

People, our children falling into this category, who suffer from anxiety often feel like they have no control, they feel overwhelmed and vulnerable. They can also feel very alone and like no one understands. As society is becoming more aware of anxiety as a form of mental health it is becoming more talked about, however, how can we help? What should we be doing to help those suffering, especially our children? 

It is extremely important not to feed anxiety. Yes, we need to be considerate and show respect towards the way our children are feeling, but it is vital we don’t feed it. If you continue to talk about a worry, the worry becomes bigger, it begins to take up a bigger part of the subconscious. More experiences become attached to it and therefore more feelings. In this situation it is better to offer strategies, reassure your child by working through ways they can take control. 

Language plays a key part in making sure we are not ‘feeding’ anxious thoughts. Instead of asking your child why they are upset try asking “How can I help make you feel better?” or “What can be do to make it easier for you?”. By using this change in your language and the questions you ask you are helping your child find a solution, embedding the fact that this feeling is ‘solvable’ rather than further installing it. Helping your child feel empowered is also vital. Remind them of times they have over come anxiety. Talk to them about what has helped them in the past and what might help them now. Encourage them to know they are not alone. Talk to them about their friends that get nervous, what do they do to make things better, in this case you could even relate it to your child’s favourite character. What would superman do in this situation?

It is important for your child to know that feeling worried or nervous is totally normal and most people will feel this way at different times in their life. “It is OK to not be OK.” Talk about what you do when you feel nervous. When we share our own experiences, it helps our children to understand that this feeling is not a sign of weakness. One really important point to take from this is to not ask “Are you OK?” By asking them this you are fuelling their anxiety, its reminding them that they are not OK and gives them a reason to be worried and again they enter the vicious cycle.  

Here are just a few ways you can help support your child. It is difficult and can be emotionally draining watching your child struggle. Along with supporting your child, you must make sure you also support yourself. Make sure you take time for you. Having an anxious child can also be hard on the parent as they are often clingy and wanting to spend all their time with you. In this situation it can be hard to distance yourself but in the long run it is also what’s best for them. When you take control of looking after you, you will be in a better position to look after them. Your mind will be stronger allowing you to be the best version of yourself ready to guide your child to finding their own strategies which will support them for life. 

Future Footsteps Coaching and Therapy is here for you and your child. Please get in touch if there is anything else you feel you would like support with.

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