4 Top Tips for Dealing with School Anxiety
Updated: Feb 22
"what challenge is causing their challenging behaviour?"
Starting school or kinder can be such a daunting experience for both the kids AND parents, but once they've started school we can breathe a sigh of relief, job done.......ah not so fast! Starting school is one thing, but staying there is another!
Below I share my top tips that are super practical and can help your child who may be experiencing anxiety around school.
1. Social Story- this is tool that explains a social situation often in the form of a picture story book. It can be created together with your child at home that includes all the important information and advice your child needs. It is used to build familiarity and to give your child helpful information in a non threatening way through the format of a story book. It is great to include photos of their own kinder/school and can be read nightly to help children become familiar with where things are and also what to do in particular situations. The key is to provide advice using really positive and affirming words. For a free Social Story template, contact me and I will gladly send one across.
2. Visual Diary- this is a weekly timetable that includes images or photos of what the child is doing on each day and who they will be spending it with. This helps them to feel prepared and to know what to expect, which makes them feel in control. It is a great tool to place on the fridge or hang on the wall so the child can go and check their calendar as often as they like so they can see exactly what is coming up. When a child has predictability in their life and knows what to expect, they often feel more content and feelings of anxiety reduce significantly.
Image by Easyactivitieskids on Etsy
3. Happy Thoughts Card- Often a factor that can cause anxiety in younger children is separation from their parents or carers– especially once the initial gloss of the new school year wears off. A Happy Thoughts Card is a credit card sized collection of small photos put together and laminated. The photos can be of anything that makes your child feel happy i.e. special people/toys/pets. It's important that you ask the child what things make them happy, rather than assuming yourself! The benefit of a Happy Thoughts Card is that is nice and small so can be discretely kept in the child's pocket without anyone knowing. When they feel sad or worried they can pull it out and be reminded of all the happy things waiting for them at home. My daughter took her card in her pocket every single day of prep!
4. Hug- The humble hug! This one might sound obvious but with our lives being so busy these days, we often forget to take the time to just sit and cuddle our kids. There is actual scientific reasons for doing this! When we hug, our brains produce the feel good hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. These help to reduce feelings of anxiety by reducing our heart rate, increasing our feelings of safety and security and it also strengthens the bond between the people hugging. Did you know that the longer the hug the more positive impact it has on our body? A 20 second hug can even help to increase our immune systems! So before you let go of a hug, hold on a little longer and become healthier in the process!
There is no denying that transitioning our kids to day care, kinder or school can be overwhelming for both the kids and us. And while we are in the thick of it, it can seem emotionally draining and like it will never get better. But as a primary school teacher and mum of three kids who have all had their own struggles starting kinder or school, my best advice is just love your child. Their brains are trying to process and deal with SO many changes that when they come home, they just need somewhere to feel safe, secure and supported.
When you experience challenging behaviour, ask yourself 'what challenge is causing their challenging behaviour'. It just helps to understand that there is a reason behind their behaviour.
When we respond with kindness, love and empathy our children learn that we are their safe person and it builds a deep trust that will last throughout their life!
I would love to hear your experiences with school transition or what tools and ideas you have tried! Feel free to share them with me by commenting below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To read about another super simple and easy technique for reducing anxiety, click here