4 Ways to Deal with Back to School Anxieties

back to school anxiety

This is a sponsored post from Emotional Intelligence for Children

A new school year brings a mix of excitement and worries: “Will I do well? Will my teacher like me? Where will I sit? Will I be teased on the playground? Will I be invited to someone’s house? ” Such questions will arise more for children who have formerly been bullied or excluded, and may even be kept private.

I lived on the boardwalk in Atlantic City until I was 12. Not being part of a neighborhood left me on the outside looking in. As an overweight child with buck teeth, I was a bully’s delight. Cyberbullying would have crushed me.

We all face not being enough at times. Even popular children are anxious returning to school. What are your children’s back-to-school anxieties? Casually ask them while riding in the car and at dinner. Our uncomfortableness makes it difficult, but necessary, to broach hurtful topics. We must take steps to help prepare for inevitable situations.
Begin these talks in mid-August. That will give you plenty of time to work the conversations in naturally and slowly. Think of potential questions and worries and plan a strategy in advance for each anxiety.

Children don’t know how to identify or address anxieties. It interferes with their listening and processing skills, and the ability to stay focused. If children go to school anxious, they will lose substantial incoming information, especially new information.

After decades of study, I discovered that not being emotionally intelligent hampers the ability to manage emotions and stay present. According to Psychology Today, Emotional Intelligence or its shorthand EQ (the emotional version of IQ), is the “ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” As a child, I didn’t have the necessary skills to calm anxieties, redirect thoughts and persist despite frustration. Becoming emotionally intelligent later in life gave me the ability to manage life’s frequent challenges and injustices with greater resilience.

We can’t do much about other people’s behaviors but we can manage our own, creating an inner world that allows us to function, feel emotionally safe and reach our potential. Here are a few helpful hints based on the recognized key emotional intelligence skills. Practice these before the kids head off to those daunting first days of school.

  1. Practice kindness. This builds inner and outer empathy, reducing anxiety. Encourage thinking and saying kind words to parents, siblings, pets, even strangers. Tell your children to think of these words as “gifts of love.” A loving thought to ourselves will ease anxiety. The Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skill to empathize.
  2. Choose “Happy Thoughts.” Positive self-talk is extremely important when we are fearful, anxious, and need support. We can’t always get this from parents, who are not in school, or from busy teachers. Practice this with your children until it becomes habitual, especially when they are feeling and acting negatively. “Can I have a happy thought, please?” is a great reminder to refocus and replace negative thoughts. Negative thinking only increases fears and anxieties. This builds self-confidence and is the best stance to take against a bully. The Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skill to motivate oneself.
  3. Self-calming and soothing is essential. We lose focus, make bad decisions and are forgetful when we feel angry, frustrated, annoyed or scared. Keep saying “I” messages until you calm down. They clear the head and let you rethink and consider options. “I am calm.” “I am good.” “I am kind.” These are just a few. Pick your own. Have your children pick their favorites and practice! It is another “happy thought.” The Emotional Intelligence skill to self-regulate moods.
  4. Persisting in the face of frustration is critical especially when being teased, failing, or not excelling at sports. If children learn to persist at these challenges now, when life altering challenges come along in later life, they will be able to carry on. The key is gratefulness. Stopping and saying to yourself what is good in your life takes you out of the victim role and allows you to move forward. When my children were younger, we would share our “gratefuls” at Friday night dinners. If your children become frustrated at school, they can stop, take a breath and think about something for which they are grateful. The Emotional Intelligence skill to persist in the face of frustration.

Additional attributes of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) manifested in other ways, include: Control Impulse and Delay Gratification (Helpfulness/Service); Keeping Distress From Swamping the Ability To Think (Apologizing and Forgiveness); and Maintaining Hopes and Dreams through curiosity, creativity and problem solving through play.

As parents, we too are anxious about the new school year. Vacations are over, schedules resume and homework becomes a priority. Slow down, take a breath and remember my “gifts of love” to you. May these suggestions ease the start of school for the entire family!

This is a sponsored post from Emotional Intelligence for Children


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About Karen Stone

Karen Stone, BA, Special Ed, MA, Learning Disabilities, has worked in the education field for more than 45 years, and authors an anti-bullying blog: www.www.EmotionalIntelligenceForChildren.com This blog is an outgrowth of Karen’s education background and her own experiences being bullied, from childhood to early adulthood, at home and school. Karen’s work is also greatly influenced by her experiences raising a son with significant disabilities. As CEO of SoftStone Products, Inc., Karen has written and piloted research-based children’s Emotional Intelligence programs implemented with students from Preschool to High School.

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