Ahhh, September. The leaves are beginning to turn, the air is beginning to cool, and it is back to school for the kids. And, while some parents look forward to this time with great anticipation, many may find themselves dreading “back to school” season.
While most kids thrive under the structure provided by the school routine, some kids can be sensitive to changes in routines and schedules. And for anxious kids, going back to school is not only a disruption of the summer flow, but it may also represent a flood of potential stressors:
Being separated from mom and dad
Achievement and performance pressure from tests and evaluations
Social pressures of meeting and assimilating with new peers
Learning the ins and outs of a new school.
These are just a few of many “triggers” that may come along with “back to school.”
An older child with these fears may be able to verbalize their concerns, but often, parents are left trying to put together the pieces after a child demonstrates changes in mood or behavior such as:
Refusing to go to school
Fear of being alone or separated from parents
Nightmares and trouble with bedtime
A parent may also notice an increase in somatic complaints like head or stomach aches, nausea or vomiting. An increase in worrying and “what if” questions may also arise.
If these changes in your child’s behavior are impacting his or her ability to function in or attend school, socialize with peers, or is creating havoc at home, it may be time to seek professional help. Fortunately for your child (and YOU!), there are many behavioral strategies that can be learned and practiced in therapy to help your family with back to school time. These strategies tend to focus around consistency, routine, empathy, and limit-setting to provide your child with a loving and accepting environment, but also a structured environment where rules and consequences are clearly stated and understood.