shutterstock_167557547Time to go back to school! Many kids are energized by the possibilities of going back to school, but others may be anxious about the unknown. A new teacher, a new school or going to school for the first time can shake even the most resilient child.

“One of our biggest fears as humans is the unknown, and starting a new school year involves a lot of unknowns,” says Laura Markham, PhD. She is a clinical psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.

There are steps you can take to make going back to school easier. The school-based team at Jefferson Center offered these tips to ease the transition.

  1. Say it’s Ok. Children with anxiety can experience nightmares or a change in sleeping habits. Some may become crabby or sad, asking many questions about school. Listen to your children; validate their feelings and reassure them that it’s ok to feel this way! Let them know that many other classmates of theirs are experiencing the same feelings.
  2. Break the Ice. With new students, teachers and groups of friends that consistently change, kids may find themselves in a classroom where they don’t know anyone or they don’t have any friends. Try to find a class list or ask other parents which teacher their child has and arrange time for the kids to play together. Have older kids? Use the terms “meet up” or “hang out.”
  3. Take Care. Sleeping enough, eating a healthy diet – especially a breakfast of balanced protein and carbohydrates – and getting plenty of exercise is imperative for brain function, mood, ability to sit still and pay attention in class.
  4. Take Time. Set aside time each day to spend with your child. Read a book, go for a walk or just sit and talk; your children will savor your undivided attention. The peace of even a short one-on-one time will do wonders for your own spirit.
  5. Relax! Yes, this tip is for the parents! The kids going back to school can make it a hectic time for you as well, and kids can often sense this. Taking time to relax and recharge your own batteries is just as important for you as it is your kids.

Bonus Tip: Know what’s available at your child’s school for help! Schools have counselors and Jefferson Center has a school-based program where clinicians are on-site at many area schools to support kids and families with anxiety or other mental health challenges.

Start incorporating these tips into your daily lives today to make back to school time more manageable for everyone!