As the school holidays are coming to an end this can bring lots of different emotions for everyone in the family. For parents, it is a relief for some that their children will be back in a routine, for children, it can bring happiness to see friends. For some children though, returning to school after a 6-week break can bring a lot of social anxiety for lots of different reasons and they can feel afraid of school.
The last academic year for our children was very disruptive. There were lockdowns, class bubbles, remote learning, in-person teaching and children may be worried that this could happen again. The mixing of bubbles and classes may be too much for some, as they have restricted their mixing during the last 18 months. Their concerns may not be Covid related. They may be worried about moving to a new class, a new building, the workload and expectations for the next year group or having a new teacher.
Back To School
Whatever the reason that our children are afraid of school, we must support them in feeling more relaxed and prepared for what is to come. Parents need to be able to recognise the signs of stress and anxiety and implement some creative strategies to support their children. CBT for children.
How To Identify Anxiety In Children
When children are anxious they may not be able to put into words how they are feeling. The clues parents/carers need to look out for will be in the child’s behaviour. They may:
- Appear more clingy
- Complain of stomach aches
- Be restless or fidgety
- Struggle to concentrate
- Get upset or angry more quickly
- Have changes in sleeping or eating patterns
If a child’s anxiety lasts longer than two weeks and is becoming to interfere with their daily life, this could be a sign of an anxiety disorder and parents would need to talk to the child’s doctor. If left untreated, anxiety puts kids at risk for poor school performance, difficulty maintaining friendships and even depression.
7 Strategies To Help Children’s Anxiety
- Chat about school. Keep school in your everyday ordinary conversations. Keep it light and positive so the child knows it is OK to talk about it.
- Plan other activities. During the coming term, have some activities planned for evenings or weekends. This will help the child to see that school is only part of the week and not the whole week.
- Ask how they are feeling. Children need to know that they can talk to you about their feelings, whatever they are, and that the way they are feeling is normal. Talk to them about your feelings too and give an example of when you have felt this way. Reassurance is key as you are the person they trust the most.
- Have a “family feedback time”. This is a time where everyone in the family has a chance to talk about their day, share worries and share the fun things that have happened. It could be over dinner, or just before bedtime.
- Play a conversation game. You could do a question and answer game where you have to ask and answer 5 questions about their day quickly. You could do this on your way home from school or in the bath.
- Teach them grounding techniques. This is helpful if a child is struggling with their anxiety while they are at school. This particular exercise helps to turn thoughts outward instead of thinking about how they are feeling on the inside. Teach the child to think of 4 sounds they can hear, 3 colours in the room, 2 smells and 1 thing that is great about themselves. They can repeat this if they still feel they need grounding.
- Be present. For some parents, they can be there every day on the school run and pick up, maybe more so now as lots more people are working from home. For others, it still may not be possible to be present every day at these key school times, but there are ways you can be present. Leave them encouraging notes in their lunch box or bag, use a friend or relative to pick them up and be that person for them, call the adult looking after them and speak to your child.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT are Cognitive Behavioural Therapists or Psychologists, offering evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.