Back to School


Who hasn’t seen this?  Years later, it still makes me giggle.  I just had my son watch it and I said “isn’t it funny?” to which he grunted and then I realized “oh yeh, you’re the kid“.

Many of you will be packing lunches and putting your kids on the bus on Tuesday, and some of you have already begun the early mornings and homework routine.  Whatever the case, going back to school is a transition, a transition that brings excitement, fear and for some debilitating anxiety.  Little kids can find the first days of school to be exciting; new shoes, new backpacks and  warm nurturing teachers.  Older kids who have already been face to face with hours of homework and years of exams are far less excited, I have heard the word “dread” more than once from teens referring to going back to school.

How do loving parents temper their anxious students during the first days of school?  I have worked with several teenagers who have literally refused to go to school due to anxiety.  They experience test anxiety, social phobias and miss so many days that they have truancy charges.   It can be a complicated dynamic between the parent who wants to comfort and protect her child and the child who feeds into this compassion.   The parent finds it harder and harder to enforce the rules and insist that the child go to school, subsequently  the child’s anxiety about school increases because she has missed so many days.  One parent I worked with  walked her high schooler into the guidance office daily, the very understanding guidance counselor then walked the student to class and helped ease her into the classroom.  It was difficult for all involved, but eventually, the student became more comfortable with attending school.

I worked with another girl who literally  missed two years of school due to medical ailments rooting from school anxiety.  She did homebound schooling and online classes and after a great deal of therapy is planning to begin an alternative school program next week.  The verdict is still out,  I shall keep you posted.

I remember last year on the first day of school at the bus stop an adorable rising kindergartner was hysterical as the rest of the kids boarded the big yellow bus.  There was nothing his mom could do to get him on the bus.  She calmly, yet firmly, drove him to school and was assisted by experienced staff to get him into his classroom.  This was a success story and he ended up having an excellent  year.  I heard a story from my friend last week who said that her anxious elementary school child got on the bus without a hitch “I think what has helped our first day of school “success” is that I’ve just given up on making it “special”. It just increases the anxiety too much. No coddling or talking about it too much. It’s just matter of fact…eat your breakfast, change your clothes, brush your teeth, off you go! No pictures, no fanfare. Do you know how hard it is for someone like me who would love to decorate our  sidewalk, make a really special breakfast, and take pictures with the First Day of School sign on our front porch?”

I applaud this mom (and so many insightful moms) for doing what is best for her child despite her vision of a different kind of send off.

Whether you are sending your kids to school next week or are already a week or two in to the groove, I wish you a fun and safe Labor Day Weekend and a smooth transition next week.




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