Children spend a whopping 1,000 hours or more at school each year, so building a mutually supportive relationship with our child’s teacher is well worth the time and effort. Teachers can become mightily invested in helping children overcome their struggles with back-to-school anxiety – especially when parents are involved and willing to work as a team. Keeping the lines of communication open, setting realistic and specific goals, and meeting regularly to discuss progress keeps everyone wholeheartedly committed to the child’s overall health and well-being. Here are a few tips for teaming up with teachers when a child feels anxious about school:
- Bridge the attachment. Any extra one-on-one between your child and their teacher is golden for building the bonds necessary for your child to feel emotionally safe. Help your child discover shared interests with their teacher – those common threads can be invaluable. Also, see if your child can check in with the teacher well before school begins to help with preparation or simply check in.
- Set up a regular meeting time. While teachers are often willing to meet on an as-needed basis, regular meeting times help ensure children are making consistent academic and emotional progress.
- Ask questions. Knowing how children are doing in the classroom can help everyone to better understand the full range of our kids’ triggers and anxious behaviours. Find out what the teacher is doing in the classroom to help the entire class manage the transition.
- Prepare for the next day. Predictability crushes anxiety. When a child understands what to expect in their day it minimizes the uncertainty that exacerbates the fear response and prepares them mentally for what’s to come.
- Front load with information. The invisible signs of anxiety show up in all kinds of ways. Irritability, difficulty transitioning, headaches and stomachaches, sleep problems, loss of appetite, withdrawal, and many other symptoms can signal a child is suffering internally. Complete and discuss a child anxiety checklist (found at michelekambolis.com/resources ) with your child’s teacher to help them understand the many ways anxiety shows up in your child.
- Put it in writing. Letting teachers know about the tools and skills being used at home can help them to reinforce these strategies in the classroom. Just knowing that your child is able to do mindful breathing or benefits from a quiet space with a book can go far in arming their teacher with the tools they need. Providing this valuable information in writing helps to track goals and gives a concrete reference point they can go back to again and again.
- Get involved. Your presence in the classroom, library or playground is deeply reassuring for your child, so make a point of volunteering whenever possible.
- Discuss classroom seating. For instance, seating a child with anxiety next to a friend can help them feel more at ease.
Information gathered from Michele Kambolis’ critically acclaimed Generation Stressed.