Dealing With Back-To-School Worries

Aug 17, 2023

Do you have a child that’s nervous about going back to school?  Even when kids are excited, each year is new and unknown which can bring up back to school jitters and worries for many kids.  As parents, how we handle our child being nervous can have a major impact so it’s something that I coach and teach around often this time of year.

I invite you to take a minute and think about your typical response when your child is hesitant when facing a new situation.  Is your first instinct to reassure your child, telling them that they are going to be okay and that there’s nothing to worry about?

I bring this up because this is the natural response for many, if not most parents, myself included.  We think reassuring our kids and telling them everything is going to be okay will help calm their nerves.  

Unfortunately,  telling our kids there is no reason to worry or be nervous when they are feeling that way can actually heighten their anxiety.  They’re not only still worried, but now they’re thinking something is wrong because they’re feeling nervous when we tell them they shouldn’t be.

Here’s why most kids get nervous about new situations: Our brains are designed to gravitate towards things that are familiar and predictable.  When we are faced with an unknown situation, our brains and nervous system can go on high alert because it doesn’t know what to expect and needs to be prepared for potential dangers.  This was what kept our cavemen ancestors alive, and was genetically passed down to us.

The alternative is to help them understand that it’s totally normal to be nervous when faced with new and unknown situations.  

My favorite example happens to be from my own family.  My sister reached out to me when her daughter was nervous about starting a sports program one spring as she was going to be one of the younger kids there.  In the past, my sister would have told my niece that she didn’t have anything to worry about and just worked to reassure her.  

After our discussion, she switched tactics and told my niece it was totally normal to be nervous.  She shared how she too gets nervous before doing new things, and that it’s really common for most people to be nervous when facing new situations.  My sister later shared with me how she could visibly see my niece relax.  She got out of the car and went into the building for the program without needing any further encouragement and went on to have a great experience.

When you use this strategy consistently, your kids build confidence around their ability to handle new situations.  

With my niece, her nervousness came up again when faced with a new sports summer camp.  My sister first reminded her that it was totally normal to be nervous, then she reminded her that she was nervous about the spring sports program too.  She gave my niece a hug and asked her to think about what she thought about being nervous now that it was over. My niece was able to head off to the camp with no fights, no back and forth, and no drama.

Accepting and validating our children’s nervous feelings is such a simple shift, but it can make a world of difference.  From personal experience, I can share that it takes a while and lots of practice for kids that really struggle with anxiety over new situations, but it does get easier.

If you want to add more tools to your parenting toolbox and learn how to support your child through change and going back to school, I can help!  This month in the Confident Parenting Club we are doing a deep dive into how to support and prepare kids (and yourself) for upcoming changes and going back to school!  Click here to check out the Club, and use coupon code CHANGE to get over 25% off when you join.

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