Though social anxiety is often viewed as an adult problem, children and teens can suffer from social anxiety issues as well. This can be especially taxing during the back-to-school season; not only does heading back to school require a transition from the routines of the summer, but it also means going into a new set of classes where they don’t know what to expect. Given how much things can change over a summer when you’re growing up, young people and teens with social anxiety may not even be able to take solace in the thought of seeing old friends at school.
Especially for teenagers who are already facing a number of other changes, this can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are ways to help. If your child or teen appears to have anxiety about returning to school, here are just a few suggestions on how you can help them overcome it and get ready to go back to school.
Start Transitions Early
For a lot of families, back-to-school preparations start around the time that you register for school; this usually gives two to three weeks to get ready for the new school year, though in some cases it’s less time than that. If your child has experienced anxiety issues in the past, however, start early. Focus on the basics, including transitioning to a regular bedtime and wakeup routine, and do what shopping you can in advance. By the time school rolls around, your child will already be well accustomed to a new schedule.
Discuss Plans Together
Have meaningful conversations with your child about the new school year, making sure to ask questions about how they feel and what they are anxious about. Be sure to listen, too, and avoid giving the impression that their fears are unfounded or trivial. Try to find solutions to address these fears so that your child will feel more prepared for the new school year.
Review Coping Techniques
There’s a good chance that your child already knows some techniques for coping with stress and anxiety issues. In the weeks leading up to the start of school, make it a point to review these techniques so your child is reminded of how they can help. This might be a good time to introduce new techniques as well, especially if there is a major change coming (such as the transition from middle school to high school.)
Focus on the Positives
In your discussions about your child’s return to school, be sure to ask them about any positives they might be looking forward to, as well. This can help to shift their mindset, reminding them that while the return to school is stressful, there are still some good things about the return as well. Be sure not to downplay their concerns in doing so, of course.
Consult a Doctor
If necessary, talk to your child’s doctor and schedule an appointment to address their anxiety about school. If your child is already on medication, a change to their prescriptions may be needed if their anxiety seems worse than usual. This doesn’t mean you should push to medicate your child if they don’t currently take any medicine, however; while the doctor may decide that some medication is warranted, the primary purpose of the visit should be to ensure that your child is healthy (to rule out conditions that are aggravating their anxiety) and to get additional advice from the doctor on how to handle that anxiety.
Which techniques do your children use to help get ready for the back-to-school rush?