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That Time Again

Here we are again. BTS time is upon us. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve abbreviated those three little words just so I wouldn’t have to speak them out loud. 

Back.To.School.

What is it about those words that can make some of us shudder? I mean, I have known people who get excited and cannot wait to walk through the doors of their school, thrilled at the idea of seeing old friends and making new ones, psyched to get into to learning and participating in new educational adventures. Really. I have known a few of these exotic creatures. 

But this was not my experience. Nor was it typical of my students, the majority of whom struggled with anxiety, depression and learning difficulties. BTS also stood for Breakdowns, Tears and Stress.

What can we do to help our reluctant or anxious kids face this challenge? Something that can work wonders is preparation. And I don’t mean loading up the backpack with school supplies. I mean mental and emotional preparation. It can look something like this:

If your child is attending a new school or will be in a different part of their usual school, go check it out with him or her. Walk around and find his or her classroom. If you know who your child’s teacher(s) will be, see if you can meet them ahead of time. Many teachers are already at school, preparing and setting up in the week or two before classes start. If there are class lists posted, see if there is anyone your child knows who will be in the same homeroom or other classes. Locate bathrooms, lunch room, library, or gym (if that is not a stressful place for your child). Whatever elective your older child is even a little excited about taking, make sure you visit those rooms: band room, drama room, art studio, shop or home-ec rooms. This can help build optimistic anticipation.

In the week or two before school starts, help your child visualize a positive first day. This can take the form of a bedtime story for younger children or a guided meditation for older kids. Have your child relax, close eyes, and take five deep, slow breaths. With as much detail as you can imagine, and in a calm voice, guide them through an ideal first day of school. Here are some suggestions you could include: new outfit, awesome lunch packed, a friendly kid sits with you on the bus, there are kids in your class that you know and like, people wave and say “hi,” there’s lots of laughter, everything is calm, you do a fun activity, something really interesting is happening next week, you feel excited and happy to be back… Personalize the ‘story’ for your child and be sure to describe the confidence and calmness they feel as you tell their ‘story’ of success. 

And as the day gets closer, reassure your child by expressing your confidence in their ability to manage and be successful. Practice and model optimism for your child. Have a great BTS week!​

 

Article Author: Valerie Ostara is the world’s first Closet Monster Battle Coach and founder of Sound–Mind.ca, an educational and coaching organization dedicated to defeating the anxiety monsters that lurk in the closets and under the beds of our children’s minds. Through our effective and empowering strategies, children and parents learn the skills and self-management techniques guaranteed to bring peace of mind.