This week children across the UK will be going back to school after a lengthy summer holiday. While many children will be naturally excited at this time; seeing their friends again or eager to make new ones, some children may seem a bit daunted by the prospect of a whole new year, new teachers and new learning. As parents and teachers it’s important that at this busy time of year we make a point to discuss how our children are feeling and put into place calm spaces for mindful thinking.
How to help your anxious child?
The first step is to stop reassuring your child. This may sound counter intuitive but telling a child everything will be fine when they are in a panic will only make them feel unheard and more frustrated and vulnerable. Due to the way the brain works one cannot rationalize when panicked, everything resorts back to instincts, often displayed as a bawling child not wanting to go to school on the first day of term and you shouting at them to get into the car. Don’t. Rather stop and breathe. Ask your child to take a deep breath and to focus just on that for a minute. Once they are calm it will be easier to empathise with them and find out why they are feeling anxious about ‘going to school’. Once you have listened to them you can then offer practical solutions to remedy what they are worried about.
Remember, worrying is natural but teaching your children how to manage their emotions and overcome this instinct is helpful. One way is to vocalize worries, or write them down. Worries are emotions and it’s important for children to separate feelings from facts. Listen to them, but try and get them to evidence their feelings. For example
“I don’t want to go to school because I have no friends” is a common emotive felt by many children at the start of term. Probe this emotion and find the facts within it, ask about friends you know who will be at school, remind them of play dates from the past, or the ways of making new friends. This way the brain can begin to think about ‘worries’ more positively. Most importantly the ‘big’ emotion can be broken down into a manageable, solvable problem.
Open the doors of communication with your child’s teacher.
Many parents often feel there is a huge impassable void between them and the teacher, and the road to pave a crossing is only built when something goes wrong. Teachers however, want parents to get involved, and they value your input greatly so if you know your child is anxious at the start of term a friendly email or note to let them know of any unique situations, worries or concerns can help the teacher support your child in class.
At the start of the school year many teachers are told not to smile until December (to instil discipline) but this approach can make an anxious child feel very insecure in the classroom environment. So by talking to the teacher you allow them the opportunity to adjust their plans to ensure your child feels welcome and safe. Teachers and parents should always be seen as playing for the same team, that is they both want what is best for the child, so don’t feel you can’t reach out to them.
Routine is key!
Building routines give children a sense of security and each family should draw up a schedule which is communicated to the children for the week. No one likes the ‘unknown’ and while we, as adults, may have an idea what we will be doing that day/week/month, for children it is important that this plan of yours is made known to them, and is kept consistent.
Having key routines such as structured meal times, bed times, family time and play time and a clear actions and consequences agreement, allow children a space of being able to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives as they know what is happening, when and why.
If you would like to book your child in for a mindfulness or goal setting session with A-Lined Tutors we have the following dates available:
Saturday 23rd or 30th September