Sunday, September 2, 2012

* Back To School Anxiety Busters: Helping Your Child Worry Less

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My girls come from a long line of champion worriers. 
If worrying were an olympic sport, my mother, grandmother and I would all hold gold medals.
My children would qualify for silver.
Worrying about what "might" happen in any situation is a special gift we all possess.
One of my daughters struggled with so much anxiety for a time
that we had to meet with a therapist to give her some tools to help her with it. 
Back to school time always brings up the anxiety monster. 
Worries about who will be in the class, will the teacher be nice or mean,
who's going to be on the bus, will the mean girl be mean this year, etc. start to multiply overnight. 

I have found, over the years, that addressing the worry and anxiety by talking it out and taking a few small steps makes a huge difference on how the last weeks of summer and the first week of school goes. Today I'm going to share with you what has worked for us over the years as we head into a new school year on Tuesday of this week. This year will be different for us because both of my daughters will attend the same school this year. "C" is starting kindergarten and we have a full-day program. That means she will get on the big yellow bus with her sister in the morning and not come home until the end of the day --
it's going to be a big (exhausting) and emotional adjustment for all of us!

Meeting teachers (if you can) before the first day of school helps alleviate some anxiety.

We have always visited the girls' classrooms before the first day of school. 
This year we took it a step further and helped set up "C"s kindergarten classroom
 since her teacher this year was also "E"s kindergarten teacher, is a former colleague of mine,
and just happens to be one of my best friends. 
Last year, we were still on vacation when my daughter's school held their open house
so she did not see her classroom or her teacher until the first day of school -- that was really hard on her and no one got any sleep the night before that first day.
When we visit the classroom, I take photos of the girls and their teachers
so we can look at them again at home and it seems to really help them. 

We visit things that might be scary or unknown like the bathroom. 

And the play ground.

Checking out the play kitchen area in preschool.
"C" realized she was going to have a lot of fun at school that year. 

One year, when my "E" was in preschool we brought her lovey, 
a stuffed dog named "Lady" with us to the open house to visit the classroom. 
It allowed her to safely explore her new environment with a trusted friend from home
(even though she wouldn't be allowed to bring her stuffed animal to school, 
it helped to have it along for the open house visit!) 

"Lady" dog checking out the classroom reading corner.
Thanks to our library, we read a lot of books about the first day of school at home as well. 

We also have used role play at home to work through some scary scenarios
and talk about things like riding the bus,
taking turns talking with your teacher and classmates,
and saying goodbye to mommy at the bus stop. 

Barbie classroom we made in an empty paper box.

Barbie moms wave goodbye to their kids as they get on the bus 
and the younger siblings stay behind with mom. 

You can set up a classroom with some stuffed animals or favorite toys 
and practice that way as well. After school starts, I recommend doing it again to 
find out what is happening at school. 
You will learn a lot about what is said and what happens at school
 by watching your children play!
Remember that this is a two-way street, your child's teachers will hear plenty
about what goes on at home too, for better and for worse!

My friends over at Mom's Homeroom have a great article
by Elaine Porterfield about Anxiety Busters.
She suggests teaching your children how to breathe to act as a re-set button in stressful situations, 
get more sleep, and learn mindfulness. 
The article has concrete techniques and tips to help your child
 that I found to be very useful for myself and my little mini-me worriers.
The breathing exercises are helpful for the night before school (at bedtime) as well. 

Wish us luck as we head into our last day of summer vacation and get ready
for the new school year eve! 
Here's to another new school year.

Pink and Green Mama,

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