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5 Ways For Families To Tackle Back To School Anxiety

Don't. Freak. Out.

This has become a little back-to-school-mantra for my family lately because it seems like every day there is something new to be overwhelmed by, especially during the beginning of the school year.

I'm guessing you can relate. Even if your son or daughter loves school, something can randomly happen to unnerve him or her:

  • Another kid will make a heartless comment.
  • A teacher will seem intimidating.
  • The workload and schedule ahead of them will feel confining.

Then there's our anxiety as parents on our kids' behalf, between standardized tests that can pigeon-hole them academically to the social circles that will form them personally.

We've learned around our home that all this stress can't be avoided, but we can navigate it through intentional transitions and fearless conversation.

5 Ways For Families To Tackle Back To School Anxiety

1. Have a firm plan for tender empathy. When kids are overwhelmed or afraid, they'll often try to get you to cave in on what they're facing. Even little ones can learn how to push our buttons, especially since we ache for their sensitive hearts. This is our opportunity to model the strength we want to see them eventually exhibit. It's not about putting on a tough face, but being tender to their situation while being mindful of the bigger picture. Saying "I know how hard this is for you, but we're going to stick together through this and overcome it" will do much more for their growth than excusing them out of every trial that comes their way.

2. Let your kids share their hearts. Hope and fear ironically both have one foot in reality and another foot in expectation. The former believes the absolute best will happen, while the latter believes the absolute worst will happen. Invite your kids to open up about both, recognizing the difference between what's typically probable versus what's randomly possible.

3. Confront homework head on. Homework is the one major unknown kids dread most. Figure out what in your household schedule or environment needs to change so they can stay on top of their schoolwork. If you child is experiencing anxiety about homework, perhaps don't sign up for the usual extracurricular activities so that they can have the rest they need to stay on top of the core things.

4. Casually role play. Instead of sending your kids into something unprepared, have some mock conversations together to prepare for it. Perhaps cover how to form friendships in a new class or what to do if someone else insults you, along with any other specific situations you know they'll face. Role playing can give them a sense of familiarity as they head into unfamiliar situations.

5. Be joyful, but don't rush through sadness. No matter how hard we try to stay positive, our kids are going to get scared or hurt. The good news is that God can use even these hard things as a pathway to growth. Letting our kids feel their hits is the way they learn how to field their hits, especially if we love and lead them through these challenges with prayer and some of our own tears.

As a family, we've found that some situations will need adjustments if the fears really do begin to overtake the personality of our kids. We've tried different things over the years to help our kids become whole on the inside as they face the brokenness in the world.

How has this fared for you? What's worked in helping your kids face down fears? What are you currently feeling swallowed up by?

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