Tips to Help Your Kids with Back-to-School Stress and Anxiety
Glance through any parent magazine and you will find that our kids’ anxiety levels are through the roof. Is it any wonder? Pandemic, school shootings, and, oh yeah, that first crush on the kid who sits behind you in English. Here are some ways to calm anxieties that this generation faces.
General Back-To-School Stress
- A week before school begins, start getting kids back into a normal sleep schedule and routine so they aren't dragging the first week.
- A lot of schools have meet-and-greets before the first day so your kid can meet the teacher, other students in the class, and see the room layout.
- Acknowledge that going to a new school or new grade can be hard at first, but after a week or two it can be fun. Keep in mind that sometimes kids (like adults) aren't looking for you to solve their problems, they just want to vent. Listen and validate their feelings.
It's outlandish that this is something we have to worry about, but mass shootings are sadly a realistic possibility in American schools. Kids practice active shooter drills, so they are very aware. Here are some tips:
- Be honest. Remind them that school shootings are rare but acknowledge that they could happen.
- Limit social media. While you might want to find out more information about the event, having cable news on constantly or focusing newsfeeds on the shooting can amplify feelings of fear. Turn off phones and TV for a while if you need to.
- Hearing about a school shooting is awful enough, but if your kid lived through one or had friends or family hurt or killed, it can be trauma they will have to face for the rest of their lives. Here is a resource guide from the American School Counselor Association after a school shooting.
- If your child is older, help them take action, like the students did after the Parkland shooting in 2018. There are groups like March For Your Life and Everytown For Gun Safety that give suggestions for ways to get involved in your community.
Bullying is more than just teasing between friends. There's a power dynamic between an older, stronger or more popular kid versus someone weaker. The bully acts in ways designed to specifically hurt the victim and will often behave this way over a longer period of time.
- Help your child practice being assertive – stand tall and say, 'Back off!'.
- Have your kids talk with other kids to see what strategies worked for them.
- If the problem persists, let your kid know that you will talk with their teacher. Sometimes switching seats or even classrooms can help.
Cyberbullying can take place on social media like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, text messages, online forums like Reddit and gaming communities. Cyberbullies try to manipulate and/or humiliate by posting embarrassing photos or writing mean comments. Some things cross the line into crimes, like sexting (sending/receiving sexual photos or messages to underage children). The internet is permanent, so negative posts have the possibility of impacting college admissions and future employment opportunities.
- Notice how your kids are behaving in front of their screens. If you notice a change (like creating new accounts or hiding their screens from you) talk with them about it.
- Take screenshots of harmful posts and report them to the online community (or law enforcement, if applicable.)
- Get support. Sometimes friends can go online to offer positive comments. If the child finds it difficult to function, seek counseling.
By getting ahead of the curve and talking with your kids honestly and at an age-appropriate level you will help manage their fears. Give your kids a big hug and have a great school year.