A New School Year – You can do it (and so can your kids)!

A New School Year – You can do it (and so can your kids)!

Individual Therapy Bethesda, MD

The new school year is upon us! After a summer of (hopefully) sun-kissed cheeks, sandcastles, and laid-back schedules, the beginning of school jitters are starting. I certainly feel it at my house with out of character mood swings and less than stellar behavior – not to mention how the kids are acting!  I joke, but not really.  As summer ends, the parents I know are talking, planning, and worrying about the transitions their kids have to new teachers, the next level in school, or new schools altogether! I have found myself, more than once, talking with parents about how we are more nervous than the kids!

As a therapist, I am distinctly aware of how a parent’s anxiety can impact their child’s anxiety.  I work with parents all the time in managing their own anxiety in order to help their kids be less anxious.  Research shows that even in families where one parent has a genetic anxiety disorder, through implementation of specific measures, they can prevent a child from developing an anxiety disorder!  So, lets talk about what you can do to, at least at the beginning of the school year, to keep your kids from feeling what you are feeling.

  1. Calm Yourself –  This is the obvious one.   You owe it to your kids and yourself to practice mindfulness and self care when you feel overwhelmed by the stress from the change.  When you feel your mind wandering down those “scary” avenues of “what ifs,” you have to self soothe and deliberately engage in something calming.  For example, when you start thinking “what if Johnny has no friends in his class,” remind yourself that Johnny is great at making friends and he will see his other friends at recess (and that Johnny is not worried!).  Then engage in something that calms you – this could be a meditation, exercise, play with your children! Don’t let your mind get the best of you!
  2. Don’t “carry” your kids through stressful situations – Our instinct as parents is to protect our kids – of course it is, that is our job!  One big mistake parents make, however, is to not make their kids do things on their own.  On the first day of school I understand the desire to walk a nervous child to their room – but, in most cases, you are just setting yourself up to do this the next day, and the next… By holding their hand, you are sending them the message that they need hand-holding and that they can’t do it themselves.  As hard as it can be, do not validate their fears by giving into them! Also, be careful to check yourself and make sure it is not your own nerves walking them to the door!
  3. Promote Competence – Build your kids up! They can do this!  Think about all of the milestones you have seen them through so far – they have accomplished so much with your love and guidance. Remember how proud you were when they first rolled over? Remember how excited you felt when you saw them go down the slide by themselves?  They can do this! Did I already say that? Remind yourself and remind your child how competent, resilient and amazing they are. Remind your children of their victories and even times that they have struggled – because getting through hard times are victories too!

No doubt about it, this is a tough time of year.  As parents, our children’s well-being is of utmost importance.  Our job as parents is to launch them slowly but surely into independence and self-sufficiency.  So, take a deep breath, trust that you have prepared them well and let your little ones soar!

Kara Smith, MS, LCMFT, provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our downtown Bethesda office. Call 240-752-7650, ext 3, or email [email protected], to set up your first appointment or complimentary telephone consultation with Kara!