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How to handle back-to-school anxiety in kids

What parents see as tantrums is their children’s way of telling them of their fear of the unknown

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■ Dr Heena Rach, principal, Global Indian International School, Abu Dhabi

Dubai: Anxiety is a fickle and unwanted guest, a natural human reaction to a period of transition. The younger we are, the more ill-equipped we are to identify and handle the problem. We see every instance of change as a potential life-altering incident and react strongly to it. Children also face anxiety in their lives, especially when it is time to go back to school. The new grade they are entering, perhaps new classmates, the new course- all can be overwhelming for them. What we perceive as tantrums are actually their way of telling us of their fear of the unknown. Here’s how parents can handle this phase with empathy and instill a sense of calm in the children.

Accept and address: Often, the concerns of children are brushed aside as unimportant. Listen and allow kids the space to express what they feel. Sometimes, when we refuse to listen to them, we increase the sense of isolation they feel thus snowballing the situation. When they know that they have an ally in the situation, it immediately helps them become calm.

Know the problem: As parents, you must find out exactly what is the root cause of the problem. Is it any specific event? Is it a general feeling of stepping into the unknown? Is it the prospect of making new friends? Whatever be the reason, your assurance has to tackle the core issue. A blanket ‘it will be fine’ won;t do.

Provide concrete answers: If kids are concerned about the new course and teachers, draw on your experience as a nervous student and tell them how to navigate the situation. If they fear new students, share some tips on how to make new friends. Similarly, if they feel vary of the new coursework, make them feel equipped to handle their studies.

Be positive: Parents should aim at making positive statements that provide a constant source of support. Children, by their very nature are not pessimistic and this reinforced optimism enables them to shift focus from negative to positive.

As parents, we sometimes forget what it was to be children ourselves. We may view it as a small event and downplay the effect that it has on the children. Rather, we should grasp the gravity of the situation and attempt to give them the support and encouragement they need. With the right guidance, we can greatly alter their attitude towards school.

- The writer is principal, Global Indian International School, Abu Dhabi

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