Back to school anxiety

It's not even the end of term, and we're already thinking about the beginning of the new term in September.

The impact of Covid-19

Children and young people have had a really tough 18 months.  Lots of them have missed out on school.  Some have missed exams.

Dealing with constant change hasn't been good for their mental wellbeing.  Lots of them will be feeling anxious about returning to school in September. There is a lot you can do over the 6 weeks holiday to reduce their anxiety.

What can I do?

Anxiety is something most people experience.  It's a perfectly normal reaction to a scary situation.  The difficulties start when you feel anxious about everything.  There are some things that you can do to reduce your child's anxiety:

  • Tell them that you can see they are anxious
  • Ask them what is making them anxious
  • Keep talking until you find the true cause
  • Take their worries seriously
  • Let them know that the worst might happen but you will be there for them
  • Don’t forget that children often take things literally - your throw away remark might be making them anxious

What are the long term effects of anxiety?

Anxiety can cause physical symptoms.  This is due to the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which flood the system when you are anxious.   It's what we call a "panic attack".

They make you breath more quickly which reduces oxygen in the brain.  This then makes you feel dizzy. It can also make you feel sick.  When you feel like it's pretty frightening.

If your child is having a panic attack,  to them calmly and get them to focus on slowing their breathing down.  A good technique is to breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 4 then breathe out for 4.

By focussing on your breathing it takes the focus away from what is happening in your brain.

How do children know how to react to situations?

Don’t forget that the way you react to situations has a big impact on how your child will react. They absorb all of their learning from you.

If you get really stressed out or anxious, your child will think that is how you are supposed to react to certain events.

Think about the messages you are giving to your child in the conversations you have and the reactions you might have to what is going on in the news.  Try to keep your responses calm no matter what you are feeling inside so that your child feels safe.

Keep control

When people are feeling anxious they make it worse by worrying about everything.  It's worth breaking down the list of things you are worrying about into 3 groups (as above).

Firstly, if you can't control or influence something, worrying won't change the outcome and it's a waste of emotional energy.  The best thing to do is try to put that worry to one side.

Secondly, if you can influence something, think about what you could do that could have some effect on the outcome.  Because you are doing something, no matter how big or small your anxiety will decrease.

Lastly, you need to consider the things you can control.  Even better if you are only focussing on what you can control, you will have more energy.  By taking the small steps to regaining control you reduce the anxiety.

This is a great life skill and it's never too late to learn.

By helping your child to understand their anxiety and reduce it you might be doing yourself a favour too!

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