6th Aug 2011

Soon school bells will ring, school buses will be circling our neighborhoods, and we will be sending our precious babies off for another year of school.  As we try to adjust our speed in the school zones after a few months of sailing right on through, our kids are also trying to adjust to their new routines.  I have posted a wonderful article below on minimizing back-to-school anxiety by Dr. David Lowenstein.  I hope you enjoy the article.  I thought it would be fun to elaborate on his back-to-school celebration idea.  Celebrating a new school year can dramatically reduce the anxiety and heighten the excitement of a new school year.  Here are some simple ideas:

  • A special breakfast for the first day of school (maybe a trip to the donut shop)
  • Send a note of encouragement in the first day of school lunch.
  • Make a sign announcing the child’s grade and take first day of school pictures before heading off for the big day.
  • Special “Back to School” dinner that evening (maybe your child’s favorite meal or a theme meal such as an apple themed dinner)
  • Watch an age appropriate “school movie” that evening
  • Help your child decorate a tub or box where they will put all their best memories for the coming year, and have him dream a little about what might be in the box at the end of the school year.
  • Have an outdoor athletic family activity planned for the evening such as a swim, family walk, or bike riding. Physical activity will reduce anxiety, use extra pent up energy, open lines of dialogue, and provide a nice transition from summer activities.

Article below is borrowed from: http://www.drlowenstein.com/_data/user_docs/Back_to_school_anxiety.pdf

Reduce Back-to-School Anxiety

Whether your child is starting Kindergarten or her senior year of High School, there’s a

certain amount of anxiety and stress that comes with returning to school after three

months of summer vacation.

Your child is used to lots of time outdoors, a relaxed schedule, no homework and a

fairly stress-free environment. Suddenly he is faced with many stressors both

academic (Who will my teacher will be? Will I be able to keep up with the other kids?

Will I forget everything I learned last year?) and social (who will be in my class? Will I

have the right clothes? Will I make the team? Will my friends still like me? Will I make

friends at my new school?)

There are many things parents can do to help make this transition easier for their

children – and for themselves.

Be aware that it could be an issue.

Back to school time affects the entire family. Remember that everyone will be a bit

out of sorts for a while, including yourself! So take it easy and try not to let things get

to you. But also remember it’s only temporary and within a few weeks the school year

schedule will feel normal.

Don’t mistake anxiety for excitement.

Yes, your kid may act like she is excited to go back to school but don’t assume that

means she’s not anxious. Recognize the signs of stress in your child; changes in eating

habits, not sleeping, and acting up all may be signs that your child is worried about

the upcoming changes.

Don’t wait for your child to express his worries.

Your child may not proactively share with you what he feels anxious about. Make it a

point to discuss heading back to school and review both the exciting things and the

things that may be a little scary. Chances are, he will open up and you can address his

specific concerns.

Offer as much assurance as possible.

Even if your child denies being worried, continue to offer as much assurance about the

upcoming year and all of the things that go along with it.

Make going back to school a celebration.

Create excitement about going back to school. Have a special weekend or night out

the evening before and discuss all of the fun things to look forward to for the year.

Talk about the positive things that happened over the summer and encourage your

child to share these experiences with her classmates.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

When addressing your child’s fears, make sure to be realistic about what you can

promise him. For example, don’t tell your child you will change his classroom if he

doesn’t like it if you won’t be able to follow through on that promise. It’s best to

simply say, “I will do my best to address any problems you have,” and then manage

them on a case-by-case basis when and if problems do arise.

Follow the school’s lead

Your child’s teachers are trained to know how to ease kids back into schoolwork.

Follow their lead when it comes to how much or how little homework your child is

doing for the first few weeks. Most likely they will start light and ease the kids back

into a full load. If you are concerned about too little or too much homework, ask your

child’s teacher about his or her strategy.

***

Dr. Lowenstein is a Psychologist with over 25 years of clinical experience in his

private practice in Columbus, OH. He specializes in individual, family and group

therapy with children and adolescents. Dr. Lowenstein provides expert testimony

around the country relating to adolescent and adult psychopathology and is a

frequent guest on radio and television and as a resource for print media.

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