Everyone feels anxious on the first day of school. Even kids who love school and look forward to the first day feel some butterflies in their stomach as they wonder what their new teacher and classmates will be like. For kids with ADHD who have struggled with school in the past and whose relationships with classmates have often been challenging, the back to school jitters that they experience are often more intense than most. Even if they don’t talk about feeling nervous, the anxiety will still be there and may show up in other ways – like uncharacteristic irritability, difficulty sleeping, and complaints about stomachs and headaches. As a parent it can be hard to know how to help your child cope with his or her anxiety. In addition to strategies that help with everyday anxiety, like taking deep breaths or distracting yourself from anxious thoughts, there are a few important things you can do to help your child cope leading up to the first day of school.
Help your child know what to expect. Anxiety often stems from not knowing what to expect when we’re doing something new for the first time. While you can’t predict everything that will happen on the first day of school, there are things you can do to make the day feel more familiar and predictable for your child.
Encourage your child to share their feelings. Some of our greatest fears can lose their power when we share them out loud. Not all kids are eager to talk about their anxiety, so some gentle encouragement may be needed.
Help your child feel in control of some aspects of his or her day. When kids return to school they have very little control over how their day will go. They are more or less told what to do and when to do it from the moment they wake up in the morning until school ends for the day. You can help you child feel more in control by allowing him or her to make choices and decisions about small things that will impact his or her day. Here are a few ways that you can build in some choices:
As a parent you can’t take away all of your child’s back-to-school anxiety. In fact, some anxiety is normal for everyone in the family at this time of year. But you can help your child cope with his or her anxiety by helping him or her feel more in control, creating space for him or her to share his or her feelings, and helping him or her know what to expect on the first day back at school.
Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.
Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.
This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.