Anxiety, Back to School

Back to school tips for anxious children

It’s a tough time for many children with additional needs and disabilities, the return to school! Many families I’ve met over the years have children for whom school is frightening, confusing and extremely stressful – not the safe place we thought it would be.

So what can you do? I’ve made a list here for you to think about, but I’m hoping that our lovely community will add to it, because parents of children with additional needs are endlessly resourceful. An idea that worked for you might help someone else, however strange it seems, so share it!

  1. Take your own Anxiety Temperature. What can you do to reduce your own anxiety, because however legitimate, it’s contagious and your child will feel it.
  2. Hopefully you will know your child’s teacher. If it’s possible, arrange a meeting with them before term starts, or at the very beginning of term just before or just after the school day.
  3. New “stuff” often helps children – do they have a new bag, pencil case, pens? If you can’t afford it, have a rummage around your house, and you might be surprised what you find in drawers that will be new to your child. Charity shops are also a good place to hunt, as are “pound stores”. Or maybe you could do a swap with another family?
  4. Have a visual timetable on the fridge or the front door so that the day is a known entity.
  5. Use a little notebook and create a mood diary for your child to fill in morning, lunch and after school. You could use it to pass each other notes or drawings of encouragement too!
  6. Sometimes, a teddy needs to go to school too. Have a conversation with the teacher about facilitating this if needed.
  7. A very small teddy, toy or even pebble in a pocket can be a reassuring anchor back to home.
  8. Write a word on your child’s hand! Tell them what it means, and let them carry you with them all day long.
  9. If you wear perfume or aftershave, or have a typical shampoo, find a handkerchief and dab a little on so that your child can be reminded of your smell.
  10. What will you do at home when school is finished?

What tips do you have to help a child who is anxious to go to school?