Children and Back-to-School Stress
Sick, scared . . . school
"I'm having that bad dream again." "My belly hurts every day when I wake up." It's that "school's going to start soon" angst . . . again. Like clockwork, happy summer campers turn into malady-ridden students. School fears and anxieties can cause kids to "break out" in nightmares, body aches, sibling aggression and more.
She clings to me all day like a sweater. He won't eat anything I serve him. She's talking baby-talk like her little sister. He's gone back to wetting his pants. Every conversation turns into an argument. Unwelcome behavior. Uneasy times for all.
Oh, the horror!
Don't dismiss all these behavior changes and aches with a cursory, "Oh, you're just worried about school." Remember when you were seized by fears of new schools, mean teachers, and bus bullies? These are real fears. Stephen King real. Such intense fears demand understanding responses.
Name the pain
Be patient. Name the pain, talk about it, try to ease it. "I think your wake-up belly aches are telling you you're nervous about starting first grade. I was nervous too when I started first grade. I remember worrying . . . ." "You probably can't fall asleep because you're afraid you'll have those bad dreams again. Sometimes being scared about going back to school brings us bad dreams. If you tell me what you're scared or nervous about, I bet I can help you turn your dreams into happy ones."
Once in school, your child's mind and body 'aches' may worsen, lighten, or disappear altogether. New anxieties may now dominate
("No one will sit with me at lunch!"). During these first weeks, stay updated by asking daily, open-ended questions ("How's the bus ride these days? What's recess like?"). Anchor your child by reminding her what's going well ("You're making new friends everyday"). Ride this roller coaster together.
Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.
More on: Preparing for Back to School