As your family gears up for the new school year, your child might be going through a range of emotions ; excitement at the thought of meeting up with classmates and favourite teachers, mixed with nervousness and some worry at the thought of what challenges lie ahead at school. While all these are perfectly typical feelings, some children struggle with more deep-seated anxiety, which makes heading back to school far more challenging. As parents and caregivers, these are some strategies that you can try as a family:
Identify what is making your child anxious
It is important to recognise that children face many of the same stressors that adults do, such as peer pressure, fear of failure and challenging family circumstances, to name just a few. And being children, they usually do not have the emotional maturity to develop effective coping methods to alleviate their fears – and this can deepen into anxiety if left unchecked. Identifying the cause of their anxiety is the first step in dealing with the problem. Some common stressors for young children are, homework, lack of proficiency in a subject, and even separation anxiety.
Work with the school
It really takes a village to raise a child, and building relationships with your child’s teachers and school counsellors is crucial. With smooth communication flow between the school and yourself, you can build a supportive and nurturing environment for him. As teachers spend a significant part of the day with your child, they can offer insight on what might be triggering his stress, or if any new challenges crop up. In turn, you can share techniques that you have successfully used to lessen your child’s anxiety. Working together, you can establish a consistent approach to managing your child’s anxiety.
Take a positive approach
Often, watching our child struggle with anxiety, can cause us to become anxious as well! Rather than labelling their anxiety as a problem, view it as an opportunity for your child to overcome a challenge and gain resilience. Children mirror our responses, and keeping a healthy perspective of the situation, will make it more likely that your child will too. Remind yourself that everyone faces challenges, and that by learning to cope with anxiety, he is gaining life-long skills that will help him manage other difficulties later in life.
To be an effective advocate and encourager for your child, you will need to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to tackle anxiety – we often have to actively learn these, rather than know them instinctively. Invest time in reading books and attending talks and workshops to understand the complexity of your child’s anxiety, and how you can help him. This also gives you a valuable opportunity to network with other parents facing similar challenges. If needed, seek help from a professional who can offer guidance and advice.
Spend time with your child (lots of it)
Every child needs quality time with their parents to feel affirmed and anchored as part of a family. Your anxious child is likely to need even more care and attention on a daily basis. Family time does not have to be elaborate or expensive, and is an invitation to your child to share about his day. For a child struggling with anxiety, this time together offers a safe haven for him to share his thoughts and feelings openly.
While coping with anxiety can feel like a daunting task for your child, with your support and affirmation, they can slowly but surely overcome the challenge to lead a fulfilling life.
Copyright © 2016. Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
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