Back to school: Easing the transition for children experiencing anxiety

The start of school can provoke anxiety in some young children, leaving parents feeling helpless as the first day of school approaches.

“I strongly believe that the most important ‘strategy’ to share with parents looking to do their best to support their child through big life changes is to remember that to create calm, you have to be calm,” says Margret Nickels, Ph.D., director of Erikson Institute’s Center for Children and Families. “That’s easier said than done, since we often are not aware of our own feelings as we focus on helping our child.”North.Children's.center01

According to Erikson’s Center for Children and Families, the following tips can help ease the transition back to school for both children and parents:

  • Put feelings into words and empathize with your child’s feelings. Feeling understood is the most important foundation for adjustment.
  • Never dismiss your child’s worries and feelings, and never trick your child by telling him or her something won’t be difficult.
  • Break change down into small steps. For example, “You will have a new teacher and a new classroom, but many of your friends will be in class with you.”
  • Minimize the number of transitions. For example, avoid a big trip before school starts.
  • Children respond to our faces, gestures, and body postures like drivers to traffic signs. As Dr. Nickels reminds parents, to create calm, you have to be calm.

To learn more about Erikson’s Center for Children and Families, click here.