We flip the calendar to August and before you know it back to school is upon us. There’s meant to be excitement about a world of new possibilities and adventures. However, for children struggling with anxiety, this time of year can be terrifying.
The sheer thought of a new school year can completely debilitate them and overcome their thoughts with worries and “what ifs.” So what can we do as parents to help empower our children and impart them with a sense of calm?
In our years of struggling with anxiety there are a few things we have learned that were paramount to our family’s success. We have adopted what I like to call the “PEACE of Mind” strategy. Remembering these simple and effective tools really can help move your child from panic to peace.
1. Have Patience
Have the patience to understand how debilitating anxiety can be. As well, be aware of the physical manifestations of anxiety. Does your child get:
Your awareness may help to catch the worry or fear before the feelings become too big.
2. Engage Them
In order to help with the back-to-school transition, engage your child in decisions so they feel like part of the solution. Allow them the voice to express themselves and define what environment would help them the most.
Together, discuss what tools and strategies might work for them when at a low, mid or high level of anxiety. Create and distribute laminated sheets that outline what your child can do and what an adult caregiver can do when anxiety moves up on a 1-2-3 scale. A 1-2-3 scale enables the child to express their level of anxiety and gives them a listing of tangible tools for parent/teacher/caregiver to implement. These tools empower your child by using their own words to express what strategies will work for them when at a low, mid or high level of anxiety.
3. Take a Break Together
Allow for time away from the triggering environment. This may be taking a walk outside or going into a quiet room.
4. Reinforce Positive Moments
I am not talking about throwing a party after each accomplishment. However, walking into the classroom without tears or eating lunch in the classroom with peers is a success that should be acknowledged in a way that reinforces those positive moments and is suitable for each individual child.
5. Have Them Envision Their Success
Visualize the future by challenging but not overwhelming the child. Milestones are achieved by working in tandem with the child to lay out a visual plan of goals and aspirations.
Changes don’t happen overnight but with time amazing things can and will happen if you just believe that PEACE of mind is possible.
Darlene Wierski-Devoe is a certified Life Coach, owner of Talk, Breathe, Live and the founder and publisher of the Raising Socially Anxious Children blog – a place where she shares her triumphs and tears, chronicling her family’s struggles with anxiety.