Getting Set for School Part 2: Anxiety

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This is part 2 of a 2 part series called Getting Set for School. To read part 1 about printing skills, please click here.

By Meghan Prouse

Children can become anxious about new and different things. And kindergarten is also a VERY BUSY place! There is often lots of noise, movement, and things to watch and see in a kindergarten classroom.

To help your child ease into the kindergarten routine and attending school

  • Buy or create a short picture/story book about going to school.
    • If you can create your own book, be sure to include a real picture of the school. The book can include how they will get to school (bus, parent), their teacher’s name, what they might find in the classroom, some of the activities they might do, and how they will meet and play with new friends.
    • In the book, you can also talk about strategies or things they can do at school to help them feel better if they’re feeling anxious or nervous
  • Help your child learn about the different and identifying emotions in themselves. Bonus, help them learn how to cope when they are feeling a certain way.
    • Normalize Emotions. Be sure to let your child know that it’s ok to feel a variety of emotions and that we all feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated, scared, or excited a different times. What’s important is how we react or deal with how we are feeling.
    • Physical Responses to Emotions. Young children can have difficulty understanding and identifying emotions. Make it more simple by explaining how their body reacts to different emotions, like smiles, tears, tense muscles, loud voices, fists, breath holding, laughing, and heart rate.
    • Be an Emotion Detective. Help your child be a detective to find out what makes them feel better if they’re sad, angry, frustrated, or scared. Make a list of strategies that work for your child. It will take time for your child to be able to independently identify their emotions and choose an appropriate strategy. You will likely have to help them.
    • Be a model for your child. Express verbally what emotions you might be feeling and any strategies you are going to use to regulate yourself/make yourself feel better. Better yet, share the strategies you found have worked at home for calming if anxious/scared/frustrated/angry with the classroom teacher

Beyond how they may be feeling/reacting to their new school situation, there are also a lot of practical and simple things that you can do with your child to help them feel more confident (and maybe even excited) about starting school.

  • Go for a walk or drive to visit the school a few times before school starts. Take a look at the playground. While you are there, talk about the school and its activities in a positive light.
  • Set up a weekly visual calendar to help your child anticipate school days versus weekends. Daily schedules can help children anticipate what their day will look like.
  • Develop a morning and after school routine that is posted somewhere visible to help them with the start and end of their school day.
  • Have your child pick out their clothes the night before, eliminating one more unknown and making them feel prepared.
  • Sleep hygiene is so important. Develop (and stick to) a bedtime routine with set sleep and wake times.
  • Plan a fun weekend activity so that they have something to look forward to.

School can be such a rich and fulfilling part of a child’s life, but it does come with its fair share of anxieties. The best thing that you can do as a parent is talk to you child, listen to their worries, and let them know they are not alone.

Remember that you know your child best. Get extra support if needed. Call the school, talk to your family doctor, or make an appointment with an occupational therapist who specializes in paediatrics, like me, if you think your child needs more support. Just like your child, you aren’t alone either.

 Learn more about Meghan. To make a referral to ModernOT, please click here