How to Ease the Back to School Jitters

How to Ease the Back to School Jitters – As we prepare for back to school, kids experience a wide range of emotions. Some children feel excited to start a new year, but at the same time get nervous about what’s ahead.

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Oakland County Moms gathered some middle school kids for a past Channel 4 (WDIV) segment to talk about their worries with regard to starting the new school year and the back to school jitters. (see video)

Among some of the concerns mentioned were being on time for class, making friends, and getting good grades. When you think about it, the kids have a lot on their plate to deal with.

How to Ease the Back to School Jitters

OCM contacted Linda Bull, L.L.P., Child/Family Therapist & Behavior Specialist, of Mental Fitness Center to discuss ways to ease the back to school jitters, and to determine methods we can teach our kids so they can battle their worries.

Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – If a child gets nervous about school, what would you suggest is an effective technique to teach them to relax and ease the back to school jitters?

Linda Bull, L.L.P., Child/Family Therapist & Behavior Specialist – Children who worry often already have an expectation of what will happen and fear that they will not be able to handle it well. They are in fight or flight mode. Help them feel prepared and learn ways to relax their mind and their body.
1. Gently assist your child in identifying their expectations and talk about ways to cope with the expected and unexpected.
2. Use visuals to create schedules or lay out their day. For example, one little girl was anxious about attending swim class. She was excited to go to the pool but had difficulty transitioning to her class. We created a visual schedule of her afternoon (1. swim with mom 2. swim with class 3. swim with mom again 4. have a snack) and her family reviewed this schedule with her before they left for the pool. This allowed her to transition much easier.
3. Assist your child to identify the way their body feels when they are worried (i.e. tight muscles, heart beat) and teach them ways to relax their body, such as breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth or counting to 10 slowly. My favorite exercise for kids is to have them imagine that they captured all their worries in a cloud. As they are capturing all their worries they tighten all their muscles as tight as they can. Then slowly prompt them to relax their muscles, and imagine the cloud of worries leaving as they breathe out their mouth. This is a great exercise that kids can learn to do on their own.

Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – How can we teach our children to be prepared in handling challenging social situations and “bullies?”

Linda Bull, L.L.P., Child/Family Therapist & Behavior Specialist – Children will feel more secure if they have a plan. Instead of creating one for them, sit down and guide THEM in creating their own action plan. Together, identify family values and rules so that your child is prepared when confronted with a negative social situation. And remember that action plans are not usually one size fits all, even in the same household. A child that is more introverted may not want to handle something the same way an extroverted child would. Allowing for individuality will feed that self-confidence.

Social stories are a great way to guide your children. Whether you purchase a book that is already written or create your own, presenting stories of other children experiencing different social situations can be an excellent learning tool. If you are creating your own, take the scenarios from your own child’s worries and leave the ending unfinished. Talk about different ways the children could respond in the story. Then help them choose the response that will work best for them.

Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – Kids who are confident seem to function more successfully. How as parents can we promote and build a confident child, without going overboard?

Linda Bull, L.L.P., Child/Family Therapist & Behavior Specialist – Parents wear many hats i.e.cook, chauffeur,cheerleader). One of the hats we wear the most is Teacher. Remember when your kids were learning how to dress themselves? They needed prompting and guidance and lots of practice before they confidently put those clothes on. The same holds true in other areas of their lives. Allowing your children opportunities to make choices and problem solve on their own will build their self-image. If as parents, we are always coming to their rescue, making their choices and telling them the solutions, they will not learn how to do it themselves. More to the point, they will not learn that they CAN do it themselves. Walk children through the choice making and problem solving process and assist them in identifying outcomes. As we practice with our children, they will become more confident and thus more independent.

Mental Fitness Center is located in downtown Rochester at 425 Main Street Suite #201, 248-601-3111, http://www.mentalfitnesscenter.org. Contact them for more tips on how to ease the back to school jitters!

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