The school holidays are upon us, and change is on the horizon for many children.
Countless young children and young adults will soon be starting a new school, college, or university journey. Bringing new beginnings, many firsts, new environments, people, and adventures.
In this article, we will look at how can we support children and young adults with these new changes and beginnings, when anxiety and anxiousness creep in.
“Anxiety is a normal, necessary, and useful mental state of apprehension about what might, or might not lie ahead; it is typically accompanied by an array of unpleasant physical sensations—jitteriness, pounding heart— to grab our attention”, Psychology Today.
According to Mentalhealth.org.uk, anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can spur us on, help us stay alert, make us aware of risks and motivate us to solve problems.
This means children can feel anxious about starting school due to the uncertainty of what might, or might not lie ahead and a perceived lack of control over their new environments. However, parents and carers can be comforted in knowing that anxiety is normal. It can be necessary and a useful mental state for adults and children when managed well.
Some children and young adults are delighted with excitement to attend new schools, colleges, or universities for the first time, yet others feel anxious. Back-to-school anxiety is common amongst children and adolescents. Including young 4 or 5 year olds beginning their school educational journey at school for the first time, 11-year-olds starting high school, and 16-year-olds beginning college.
It is important to nurture children through school changes because children who experience feelings of anxiety and symptoms of anxiety can be more likely to have an increased level of academic challenges, such as behaviour, poor communication, or educational struggles.
Therefore, it is essential to manage feelings of anxiety efficiently to ensure children experience a positive and successful educational experience.
Here is what you can do to support children and young adults who feel anxious about starting new educational experiences.
Become familiar with school-based counselling services
Do you know if there is a school-based counselling service? How accessible is this service if your child needs it? Is there any mental health provision?
Many schools now provide access to mental health support for students at schools, colleges, and universities.
It may be a good idea to find out if these services are available so that if your child were to become very anxious at any point about school or other school related issues, it would be useful to connect with a SENCO, ELSA, school counsellor, pastoral team for additional support if needed.
Talk it through
Talking about future events and listening to their concerns can alleviate anxiety.
Talking with your children or young adults shows you’re interested in what is going on in their life.
Demonstration of interest can boost their overall happiness and well-being. It can also have a positive effect on behaviour and achievement, as it shows your child that you value school and education, which could encourage them to equally value it too.
Besides, talking about it might help you both to be in touch with their feelings about school, college, or university. Which could help you to see problems before they get big. This way you can work on overcoming challenges together and talk about how to handle these trials.
Parents and carers can help by framing these new adventures as positive experiences to look forward to, reassuring them that although they may be nervous they can overcome.
Research shows offering reassurance to children about future events and listening to their concerns can lessen anxiety. This does not mean you bring up potential threats, but address concerns on the children’s mind.
Finally, keep in mind that anxiety around beginning new experiences is completely normal because these feelings are a part of life and they are often how the body and mind initially handle some situations.
The fundamentals to remember are to talk it through, become familiar with school-based counselling or pastor services, and offer your reassurance as a carer or parent.
We all feel some level of nervousness or uncertainty when we start a new job, new school, a new business, or a course, so as a parent offering support keep in mind that this is a part of life for us all.
Encourage your child or young adult to take it one day at a time, and keep a positive mental attitude and offer a listening ear when needed.
For support, please contact Karin Young firstname.lastname@example.org or the Help page for recommended charities.