By Jeff Wax, Director, Baker Family Emotional Health and Wellness Center at CHC
If your child is feeling nervous about starting school in a few days, know that it’s reasonable and normal to feel that way. This is true whether a child is returning to the same school, going to a new one, or entering school for the first time.
It can be a bummer that summer’s almost over. We were all just getting used to the summer activities and schedule! Well, yes, seasons change; there are transitions happening, and this time can feel stressful, for children and parents alike.
In the days leading up to the start of school, kids might feel more teary, more clingy and more I want to stay home with you. Kids might have temper tantrums or tell you I have a headache or I have a stomach ache. Family event planning that might have been easy may now include kids pleading, bargaining for what they want (or do not want) and being more irritable or angry.
Just know that these worries about starting school are worries that are quite usual. Kids do worry about many school-related issues. Remember for them, these worries are real and can be strong. We all worry about what is not yet known in our lives, and if your child or teen tends to be a more anxious type of kid, some of the different school-related issues might include wondering about new teachers (Who is he/she? Will my teacher like me?) or friends (Will I make new friends? Will other kids like me? Will I fit in?). There can be a long list of worries about clothes, thoughts of Am I smart enough? and What if I don’t want to be away from home?
These and other thoughts are common, and discussing them – encouraging your child to talk about these feelings – can actually be a way of lessening the anxiety. Express and let go! How else can you help your child deal with these feelings?
Get Everything Ready and Plan: Make sure everyone gets enough sleep and eats well. Start changing the summer schedule to the fall schedule by setting up familiar and regular routines as in the school year. Before the first day of school, you might want to have play dates with school friends. Then the first day will be more familiar and encourage the social connections.
Listen and Talk About Any Concerns: Validate your kids’ feelings, listen to them, and reassure that most likely everything will be fine. Tell them it is okay to feel a little nervous. You might have an example of a situation when he/she felt nervous and they were successful living through the feeling! That is the goal. Sometimes relaxed conversation and examples from your life can make things less intense.
Parents, Look at Yourself: OK, yes, admit it – you too are having anxieties about your child (Will he/she be liked? Get good grades? Be successful and have friends?) Hmm, some of these worries are the same as the kids! Parents you are also letting go and sending your child off into the world! Sometimes not so easy. Now is the time for you to also take care of yourself. Do yoga, meditate, relax.
Be Positive and Encouraging: When parents express concern or worry, children pick up on that. While you may well feel anxious yourself about your child’s start of the new school year, help your child focus on the excitement of new situations and possibilities. Promote I am really looking forward to hearing about your first day of school! And Wow, you are going to have a lot of new and fun experiences in school today! This relays excitement as opposed to concern and worry.
As a parent, you need to be aware and learn to observe and feel your child’s response. Know that there is a distinction between normal back-to-school response and a higher level of anxiety that might warrant getting a professional’s opinion. It might be a cause for concern if the anxiety level is high for some weeks after school begins. If there are tantrums, a difficulty separating from home to school environment or situations when your child shows distress, then it might be a good idea to check with a counselor. It is also important to get a sense of whether your child is withdrawing or simply experiencing usual nervousness or shyness. Withdrawal can indicate the need for counseling support.
Remember, most of the time it is usual for kids to have some back-to-school worries. And it is usual that these worries will subside within a few weeks.
CHC’s Psychotherapy Services for Children
The Center for Hearing and Communication offers psychotherapy services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Compassionate counselors, fluent in ASL, are uniquely experienced in addressing the needs of children and adolescents with hearing loss. Services include:
- Individual and family psychotherapy
- Psychiatric evaluation
- Psychological evaluation
- Medication consultation and maintenance
We welcome referrals of all ages from professionals in health care, social services, legal, vocational, and all levels of educational services.
To inquire about pediatric services, please contact Sandra Mays Clough, MA, PhD, Clinical Psychologist at CHC’s Baker Family Emotional Health and Wellness Center. Dr. Clough can be reached at (917) 305-7742 or sclough@CHChearing.org.
Dr. Mays Clough is a psychologist who has worked with children, adolescents and adults who are Deaf, hearing, hard of hearing and deaf blind for over 20 years. Proficient in American Sign Language, Dr. Mays Clough earned her Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at the University of Arizona and completed her internship at Thresholds Bridge, a residential program for people who are Deaf/hard of hearing with severe mental illness. She established the Victim Assistance Program for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing at the Chicago Hearing Society and later moved to NYC where she worked at NYSD. She earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the New School for Social Research and completed three years of postdoctoral training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the White Institute. With certificates in Domestic Violence Training, Sexual Assault Training and Eating Disorders, Compulsions and Addictions, Dr. Mays Clough’s approach to therapy is interpersonal and humanistic, focusing on each individual’s potential for growth and increased self-awareness.
Jeff Wax, LCSW-R, is the Director of CHC’s Baker Family Emotional Health and Wellness Center. He can be reached at (917) 305-7739 or jwax@CHChearing.org.