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Back to School: Confronting School Related Anxiety
How Therapy Can Help Your Child Overcome School-Related Anxiety
With your child’s new year of school comes new challenges like school anxiety. Maybe your child struggles to make friends. Maybe they struggle to pay attention in class. These frustrations and struggles can make the hard parts about school even harder. And, as a parent, you might not know where to begin with when it comes to helping your child. Especially with the first day of school quickly approaching!
Thankfully, a therapist can help you and your child have a great school year. (Related Article: How Counseling Can Help with Anxiety). Today, you will learn how therapy can help your child cope with school anxiety.
How to Know if Your Child Has Anxiety
But how can you know if your child is experiencing anxiety when it comes to school? Your child’s nervousness about the first day of school and a new school year is normal. So, when should you seek help? (Related Article: Worry vs. Anxiety).
You might be surprised to find that anxiety in children and teens often appears in the form of other seemingly unrelated problems. Maybe your child gets a lot of stomach aches, especially during the school year. Or maybe your child tends to act out and have behavioral issues that seem to appear out of nowhere. Your child might even refuse to go to school or feel very restless in the classroom.
Although these issues aren’t always a sign that your child has anxiety, they may indicate a potential internal struggle that your child is experiencing and struggling to process on their own. Stress and anxiety can lead to physical health issues, behavioral problems, and can even sometimes be misunderstood as a learning disability. (Source).
How You Can Help Your Child Cope
Next, let’s talk about how you can support your anxious child when it comes to school. You may have noticed that some of your sincere attempts to help your child cope with anxiety have actually made it worse. So, how do you support your anxious child without worsening their anxieties? Let’s talk about it.
Empathy is Not Agreement
An important thing to remember is that you can acknowledge and show empathy for your child’s anxiety without agreeing with it. For example, let’s say your child is entering kindergarten this school year. They are nervous about the first day of school, and they struggle to leave your side when you drop them off. When you pick them up, they are clearly upset and struggling with this new experience. The next morning, they continue to express that they are anxious about school and making new friends.
Now, it might seem logical to tell them they don’t have to go to school until they feel better. After all, they are refusing to go! However, taking this approach tells your child that their anxiety will not go away, and that they should be worried. And that will just create more concern, and your child will want to avoid school even more.
Let’s try a different approach. When your child resists going to school, start asking them questions. It is best to avoid asking leading questions, like “are you scared about going back to school today?”. Instead, ask “how do you feel about school today?”. Let them express some of their concerns and anxieties. In response, you can calmly validate their experience. “I see this is hard for you. I used to get nervous for the first day of school, too.”. (Related Article: Reduce Anxiety with this One Exercise).
Validating your child and showing empathy for their experience can go a long way! Ultimately, the goal is not to eliminate your child’s feelings of anxiety. (Related article: Therapy for Anxiety). Instead, taking this approach helps your child understand that their anxiety is manageable. You can reassure them that you are here to help, and you will get through this together.
Therapy Can Help Your Child Address Their Anxieties about School
Navigating your child’s anxiety can be a challenge. But you don’t have to go it alone. A therapist can help teach you and your child real-world skills that they can use to manage their anxiety. Additionally, a therapist can help you and your family know how to support your child as they work through these challenges in the new school year.
Written by Lauren Adkins