An article in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that anxiety in kids ages 3-17 has increased over the last five years. However, there are tools to ease the path toward a less stressful start of the school year.
Help For Back-To-School Anxiety
1. Reset rhythms and routines. The schedule has probably slid to late nights and mornings. Know that your teenager won’t wake up raring to go the first day of school if they’ve been up past midnight the night before. Start setting alarms to wake up earlier. Work together as a family to set expectations. What are the new screen times? What is the curfew? What is expected of homework?
2. Resume healthy habits. Encourage outside play after school to relieve stress and allow a child to move the large muscles that don’t get used much during the day. Focus on serving healthy fruits and vegetables as snacks and with meals. Decrease sugar in all meals and drinks. Less sweets will keep the body healthy, less hyped, and teachers will thank you.
3. Re-evaluate how you want to spend time together. Does your teenager need to play two sports and guitar in the praise band? Does your tween need to spend two hours on social media and video games? At the very least, guard family dinner time, especially on weekends. Lots of good conversations happen around the table. Use this time to determine how school is going.
4, Remember to pray over your child, staff, teachers, and school board. Pray for godly wisdom for those in charge. Ask God to protect the comings and goings of each family. Pray that the Spirit would guard your child’s heart and mind. Ask God to make your child a bold ambassador for Christ in the school hallways and rooms. Consider joining a prayer group such as Moms in Prayer (www.momsinprayer.com) to keep accountable, share your burdens, and meet other like-minded moms.
5. Reassess throughout the year. Do you still notice anxious symptoms in your child such as clinginess, trouble sleeping, not eating, or difficulty concentrating? Caris Snider, author of Anxiety Elephants for Tweens, offers these tips for kids: practice deep breaths throughout the day, jot down three things they are thankful for, and encourage them to share their worries. If your child continues to show symptoms, you may want to consider professional help.
6. Relax the boundaries for your teenager. You can pull back the reins anytime but know they’ll make mistakes and offer grace when warranted. Practice listening to not only what they say but what they are not saying. Body language and eye contact will clue you in. You’re preparing them for college and adulthood.
Through prayer and preparation, you can subdue back-to-school anxiety in your child this year.
Sally Cressman writes about faith, family, and home on her website, www.sallycressman.com. You’ll receive FREE “Tips to Ease Back-to-School Anxiety” when you sign up. Connect with her on Instagram at @sacressman.