Here are seven ways you can help:
- Ask questions/Be supportive – Validate concerns your child may have by asking open-ended questions. To start the conversation, parents might state, “I sense you’re feeling worried, and that’s an okay feeling to have. What is it that you’re most worried about right now?” Pay attention to your child’s feelings and listen to their concerns.
- Help your child feel prepared – Explain to your child what you know about what the school year or classroom will look like to help them mentally prepare. If possible, visit the school with your child ahead of the first day of classes or allow your child to meet their teacher.
- Set an example – Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation. Children watch parents to learn how to cope with adversity, communicate with difficult people, problem-solve and manage interpersonal conflict. Show children how to behave and how to feel about themselves, even in the midst of anxiety. Rather than making a general statement like “The world is a scary place,” parents might say, “I sometimes get worried, too. When I feel this way, I [insert healthy coping strategy here, e.g., take deep breaths, think about how much I love you and our family].”
- Establish routines – In a world where so many things are unpredictable and anxiety-provoking, being consistent with bedtime, mealtime, playtime, screen time and expressions of love can create a sense of stability and predictability. Ensure your child is getting enough sleep, being physically active and eating healthy food. These habits can support a healthy body and a healthy mind.
- Coach your child through relaxation exercises – Have your child try deep breathing when they feel anxious — teach them to take a deep breath, count to eight and release. You can also teach them to picture a peaceful place where they felt calm, such as a favorite family vacation spot or a cozy corner of their room. Try a kids’ yoga video to help them slow down and relax.
- Show encouragement and celebrate the wins – Consider sending positive or encouraging notes in your child’s lunch or backpack. Small actions can show you are there for your child. After the first week of school (or after any special achievement during the school year), plan a fun celebration, such as a favorite dinner, movie night or special activity together.
- Seek mental health support if needed – Although children are resilient, it’s important to pay attention to signs of anxiety. If your child is prone to anxiety and continues to have difficulty coping, do not hesitate to seek professional help.