The end of the summer can be very upsetting for many students. Going back-to-school means having a hectic schedule, lots of homework, and the same boring “early to bed and early to rise” routine. Many children and teenagers also experience difficulty with transitions and “switching” their brain back to learning mode after a summer of camp, relaxation, and family vacations.
While a majority of the students find the transition from vacations to school stressful, a few of them find it literally unbearable and extremely anxiety-provoking. Such students can face anxiety disorders and extreme mood swings that are much severe than normal back-to-school jitters.
Back-to-school anxiety might be the reason behind their impulsivity, tantrums and sudden complaining of headaches and stomachaches. It can also be very difficult to suddenly change a lax summer bedtime schedule back to an earlier time for the start of the school year.
Generally, back-to-school anxiety is a result of over thinking which pre-occupies the mind of a student, making them more anxious and nervous. Most of the time, their thoughts usually consist of:
• “Who will be my new teacher?”
• “Will I be allowed to sit with my best friend or will the seating arrangement change again?”
• “Who will I sit next to during lunch time?”
• “Will the new classmates accept me?”
• “Will I manage to get good grades?”
Many similar questions collectively haunt the child, consequently making them unable to perform well at school. If adequate measures are not taken, an anxiety disorder can act as a serious challenge and hurdle in the student’s daily life.
How to overcome Back-to-school Anxiety?
There are several ways and tips to tackle the worrisome situation. They can be very helpful in reducing mild to moderate levels of anxiety. For instance, talk about school to the children (focusing on exciting and positive things), a few days before the summer ends. Being open and talking to your child, and most importantly listening to them, is very beneficial. Many times, the most helpful part of therapy with a psychologist or counselor is just the clinician actively listening to their patients, rather than providing advice all of the time.
Parents can prepare their children for school by talking about new books, the new uniform, the colorful school supplies, and the new bag having their favorite fictional character, or probably about seeing old friends, making things look more exciting. Also, they can inquire about what makes their children anxious and as an answer, provide them with cool and effective tips to combat the expected bothersome situations. Relaxation skills for children with anxiety that parents can participate with at home include imagery exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing. Sometimes, even just blowing bubbles, especially for a young child, helps the child calm their heart and breathing rate from anxiety.
Moreover, parents and students can meet the class teacher a few days before the school begins and discuss any concerns and seeing the classroom and teacher helps remove some of the mystery of going to a new class for the first time.
Another tip, is starting the school-time sleep schedule at least a week before the first day of school. Parents cannot expect a child who has been going to bed at 10 pm all summer, to suddenly switch to 8 pm the day before school starts. A good rule-of-thumb is to have the child go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until the desired time is reached.
Also, do not wait to the last minute to complete summer reading, this just increases anxiety before the start of school.
Seeking psychological therapy
Many a times, mild to moderate anxiety can be handled at home if parents and teachers are sufficiently understanding and believe in providing adequate assistance to the child. However, severe anxiety in children might require professional help. Seeking psychological therapy becomes necessary when stress, fear and nervousness exceed what’s generally considered normal and is interfering with domains such as family relationships or friendships, or academic success.
This can be observed through the child’s behavior such as, difficulty in sleeping or eating, difficulty concentrating, irritability, trembling, shortness of breath, and persistent fears.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy performed by professionals who help patients to understand their fearful thoughts and their negative effects. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is highly effective at treating anxiety disorders by helping the individual cope with the distressing situation. CBT aids in changing their thought patterns and helps them in adopting activities to combat anxiety.
It is highly recommended to seek CBT involving family psychotherapy for anxiety prone children, which would help family members understand the condition of their loved ones and help them tackle the condition and lead to a successful start to the school year.