Many children deal with anxiety just before and during the first week of school. Many questions loom over their heads; “Is my teacher mean?” or “Who will be my friend?” Sometimes, no matter the amount of love and reassurance, they still struggle. As a parent, you’re often left scratching your head as to what to do about it.
Sharing and being understood by another is a wonderful remedy, but how can you make that happen? Getting your child to sit and talk about their experience at school may seem like the work of mystics and sages, but not really.
Try a few different strategies and see how it goes.
Don’t ask “How was school?” THE go-to question in the school pick up line, right? Avoid it. Most kids have dreamt about being out of school since the first bell rang. They have plans. Instead try, “What are you planning on doing when we get home?” This invites them to open up about what excites them and provides you with opportunity to demonstrate understanding. Sit, listen, nod, say “uh-huh.” When they associate talking to you with positive emotions, they’re more likely to talk later on.
TIP: If you have plans right after school, wait until you are on your way home to ask. Instead talk to them about your excitement to have them with you or the highlights of your errands. Stay positive even when going to Walmart.
Not openly, mind you, but don’t be afraid to have milk and cookies ready for them when they get home. Take them to ice cream and call it the First Week of School Tradition. Or just set aside time to play a favorite game. Make time for each of your kids, individually. Even if it means putting the others in front of a screen for a brief period.
<4>Ask for context.
Most kids have a hard time remembering details about their day when asked generic questions. Instead ask about specific classes, people, settings. If you can help your child’s mind establish the context of a memory then you are more likely to hear about what happened.
We all look for soothing words, but kids find it tempting to stay in that comfortable place and avoid doing something about their problem. After the first five years of their life, it makes sense that they would expect their parents to fix things. Briefly touch on how they feel but then move on to problem solving.
Casually problem solve.
Adult problem-solving mode is a little intense for most kids. As best you can, stay cool, calm, and collected. Ask them for their solutions before adding your own. Encourage them that they can handle it. Avoid the temptation to get involved unless they are unable to accomplish some part of the plan.
Believe it or not, there is nothing kids find more intoxicating than their parents’ interest in their world. Slowing down to engage with your young one will reap great dividends if given time. However, in some cases children may still struggle to attend school due to anxiety. If your child is crying inconsolably or having outbursts that are difficult to manage, please seek professional help.
Written by Chris Hogue, M.A.