After a summer away from school, many students are itching to return to the classroom and spend time with their friends. For some children, however, this is far from the case. Public school is perfectly designed for children higher in extraversion and lower in neuroticism, but for introverted and anxiety-prone children, being surrounded by their peers with little control over their daily schedules can make them dread returning to school each year.
From personal experience, I was a child who became so nervous leading up to the start of a new school year that I experienced sleeping problems the night before the first day of school, along with an upset stomach during the first couple of days while I adjusted to a new environment. In fact, my first day of middle school almost didn’t happen, as my stomach began acting up on the car ride to school. I somehow made it through the discomfort of my first day; but in hindsight, I now wonder if there were steps that could have been taken to make the experience less miserable.
Pull Some Strings
If you know your child suffers from social anxiety and does not acclimate well to change, it might be worthwhile to talk to your school’s administrators about your child’s individual struggles. Although it’s not a guarantee that the school can make changes on your child’s behalf, oftentimes, parents know the needs of their children better than anyone; and a sincere conversation with someone in charge might open a few doors that will reasonably accommodate your child’s needs. Maybe taking initiative and scheduling a meeting with your school will result in your child being placed in a class with a teacher who is highly empathetic and comforting, or making sure your child has at least one other close friend in his or her class so he or she feels more content. While it is not always possible for your children to be given special privileges and often sets unrealistic expectations for when your child enters the “real world” later in life, if a minor adjustment can make a world of difference in your child’s school year, why not give it a shot?
Make After-School Plans
Perhaps planning one of your child’s favorite activities after his or her first day of the new school year will replace your child’s anxiety with excitement or anticipation. Taking your child to his or her favorite restaurant, or making sure your children have their favorite snacks in the car upon picking them up from school in the afternoon can make a world of difference if a child has had a bad day. When I moved schools after Christmas during my sophomore year of high school, my mom graciously took me to my favorite Mexican restaurant immediately after school for the first few weeks. I found solace in knowing that I would be chomping on my favorite chips and salsa after fourth period. If your children know that there is light at the end of the school day tunnel, they will soon learn that persevering through their distress is possible (and eventually not that bad).
Know When to Make a Change
While mild to moderate levels of school anxiety are normal and will fade with time, it’s important to recognize whether expecting your child to push through is doing more harm than good. If your child expresses interest in home-schooling or online school, consider whether one of these options could be better suited to your child’s personal needs than a public school environment. If your child is under prolonged distress on a daily basis, his or her mental health can deteriorate, as well as the health of his or her immune system. If you’re hesitant to enroll your child in online learning programs or homeschooling due to the potential sociological consequences, gently push your child to find a church group or extracurricular activity that he or she genuinely enjoys to offset any potential social setbacks. Teaching children to build resilience is imperative to their development and preparation for adulthood, but not if it means causing long-lasting psychological and physiological consequences.