Almost back to school: parenting kids with anxiety

It has begun again: the back to school preparation is in full force.

Both kids have their supplies, provided by Grandma’s generous supplement, plus the boy has new, men sized shoes (yikes), and the girl a new lunch bag.

For the remaining two weeks of August however, they are happily leaving all thoughts of school out of their brains and continuing with their summer laziness relaxing and fun.

Sort of.

In some ways, these two last weeks of summer vacation mark the beginning of routine because house league baseball and tryout for next year are on the schedule for both kids. And, the prep for the teen’s hockey’s preseason begins now. First practices, some exhibition games, and more focus off the couch or unplugged from fortnite and on the driveway skipping rope or shooting pucks.

That boy’s gotta get back in shape. I don’t want him to have a heart attack during his first game. πŸ™„πŸ™ƒ

The tween girl in the meantime, she has other problems.

Almost every night, she disappears into her room where we find her curled up and crying.

“What’s wrong?” we ask her.

“I don’t wanna go to schoooool!” she cries.

“Why not?”

“I hate schoooool!” she reminds us.

This is confusing to me.

My extroverted, positive, smiling girl-child, surrounded by her gal pals, joining clubs and sports at every turn, liked by students and teachers alike, pulling in straight As consistently, this girl hates school?

If only she could tell me which part she’s anxious about.

Discussions between her and her dad, or her and I, hasn’t really narrowed anything down.

Closest I can figure is she’s anxious of the unknown.

But what unknowns?

She already knows her teacher’s name, and which of her friends will be in her class. She’s been going to this school for two years, so it’s not the layout she’s unfamiliar with. Nothing else will really change, either…not so dramatically that it will be foreign for her.

But she still cries.

It’s a little perplexing.

So what can be done to help an anxious child?

Well, last year during a spout of particularly heavy overwhelm, I gave her a small notebook with a pen. I left it open on her night table and told her when she can’t fall asleep due to worry, to jot down her thoughts in her booklet.

“This way you can put the worrying thoughts out of your head, and worry about them tomorrow,” I said, hoping it will help her at least fall asleep.

I noticed throughout the year, she did actually do that. Maybe it’s time to recommend this practice one more time?

Trying on sports equipment might be another positive distraction. Yes, school is something that is done during the day, but in the evening she’ll be off doing all her favorite sports.

I could, before tucking her in, ask her to think about some of the fun times she had with her team last year, or sing the team spirit songs in her head while falling asleep.

Another trick it to just listen. She may ramble on about things for a while, but perhaps, if we’re attentive enough, something will come out of her that may alert us to the anxiety-inducing event. Did something happen last year at school that’s bothering her? Or was it something someone said, or did?

She’s going into middle school, that alone is, if you ask me, anxiety producing enough for those of us who have the benefit of hindsight. She doesn’t have hindsight obviously, but the kids today have so much more exposure to the world via the internet, there may be a lot more going on than we could have anticipated.

For now, I’m bracing myself for the transitional period that is September to Thanksgiving (mid-October here in Canada) and then, after Halloween on October 31, we will be settled in nicely. At least I hope so.

Next up: meal planning, dog walking business and picking up the memoir manuscript once again.

But first: one more weekend away to mark the end of Summer Vacation.

What’s your experience with kids and anxiety? I know every child and circumstance is different, but sometimes your ideas might ignite something new to try in others.

Further reading: I’ve written about anxiety in children before, once about returning to school after an illness, and once about feeling overwhelmed about homework.

16 Replies to “Almost back to school: parenting kids with anxiety”

  1. Aw, this post tugs at my heart strings! My daughter had the same problems going into middle school in her 7th-grade year. We switched schools and all of her friends were at the old school. She missed the bus the first day and we had to drive her there and drop her off. She crossed the field and went in the door and we left. We bawled the whole day. After school we drove to pick her up, watched her as she walked across the field to meet us, her eyes were red and she said a bug flew in her eye. I thought she had cried all day, and maybe she had? It was the toughest year for all of us, but she did make new friends and she was stronger for living through it. My advice is to be there for her, listen, and keep alert to her moods – and hormones, they’re big that year as well! Best wishes to all of you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sometimes the talking begins at 9:30 at night and I really have to pull myself together to listen even though I’m tired and still have x things to do and want to settle down for some me time…but as you say, it’s part of it. The listening. If the anxiety is so bad she’s crying I can force myself to let other stuff go and just be there for her.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. When my daughters stress level goes up, I try one of three things….I make her write down her worries and then rip up the paper, have a dance party (sometimes just sheer let loose physicality is the way to go) or have her make a list about what’s happening so she can take control. Good post

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I wish there was a pat answer to give you. But at least you are aware and have some ideas that may help your daughter. That she is talking some is good. Just stay on top of it and try not to let your worry about her stress her even more. (Yes, I know, difficult not to convey that worry when you’re the mom.) Have you thought of seeking professional help for her?

    And, yes, I agree that the middle school years are difficult and, in my opinion, the worst. I was bullied in middle school and cried a lot and hated school. I felt like no one (not a single teacher or my parents) did anything to stop the bullying. But it was a different era, a period when bullying was not recognized or addressed.

    Continue to love on your daughter and to remain aware.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I mention to the teachers that she gets anxious, they look at me like I have two heads. The way she portrays herself to others and the way she is at home when the overwhelm takes over, it’s like two different personalities.

      Let’s hope for a smooth start! And thank you for your comment. πŸ™‚


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