Written by Jennifer Gleeson, Manager of Children’s Services CMHA WW
The most wonderful time of the year!! This is the jingle on television marking the return to school in the fall. A happy time for both parents and children. For many families this is true – kids are excited to see their friends that they haven’t seen over the summer and finding out who their teacher is and what class they will be in. For other families this can be a very stressful time of the year. If school has not been a pleasant experience for your child and there is anxiety about returning to school or if there is a big transition happening, it can be the most stressful time of the year. Returning to school can cause anxiety for many children and youth from early elementary years through the senior year of high school. Not knowing who you will sit with at lunch or if your friends will be in your class can raise anxiety in many households until the first days of school have been completed.
Here are some tips to help get the school year off on the right foot:
1. Start School Bedtime Routine:
Many professionals suggest getting back to an earlier bedtime routine two weeks prior to the beginning of school. This can be done by going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night until you get back to a bedtime routine that works for getting up for school.
2. Promote Healthy Eating Habits:
Start having your meals at regular times and plan healthy lunches with the help of your child – this can help with the transition to a school schedule.
3. Seek Help with the Start-up costs of School:
The cost of going back to school can be an area of stress if you have had the added expense of summer camps or childcare over the summer months. Accessing second hand clothing and footwear can be a way of curbing your costs as well as participating in backpack programs that are offered. For families in Centre and North Wellington the backpack program is offered by the Community Resource Centre. Families in Guelph can access the backpack program at St. James the Apostle Anglican Church.
4. Parents: Reflect on Your Own Personal Experience with School:
When parenting, it is often helpful to reflect about your own personal experience with school. If you were anxious as a child you may be able to share what helped you attend school and provide examples of success.
5. Encourage Your Child to Share His/Her Fears:
Addressing fears directly and problem solving solutions in advance can be extremely helpful. Role playing how to address situations can provide confidence for your child.
Here are some tips to help get your teen’s school year off on the right foot:
1. Discuss workload management:
Having a semester of heavy courses in high school can also create anxiety for youth who are focused on getting the best grades possible. Discussions about workload management are important in supporting your teen to have a successful year.
2. Model confidence and comfort to your child:
Modelling confidence and comfort to your child will reassure them that you believe they will be successful. If transitions have been difficult for you whether it be going to high school, post-secondary education or moving into the work force it is important to note that our child’s experience will be their own.
3. Post-Secondary Supports:
If your child is entering post-secondary education and you are concerned about anxiety symptoms there is mental health support available on campus through the institutions health services.
CMHA WW Children’s Services
Parents may want to seek help if their child routinely wants to stay home, has difficulty eating in public or using public washrooms, worries frequently, throws excessive tantrums, is extremely shy or avoids social situations or experiences stomach aches, head aches or difficulty in catching their breath with no medical explanation. Sudden changes in behaviour are also indicative of added stress. It is important to note that allowing children to stay home from school when dealing with anxiety is generally not helpful – your child may not be anxious but they are not learning the skills required to work through their anxiety.
CMHA WW Children’s Services have many services and supports for families where anxiety is a concern. There are children’s groups with parent involvement as well as adolescent groups and individual services, to access services:
Walk-in and meet with a Mental Health Clinician to discuss your needs:
When: Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (last appointment is 5:30 p.m.)
Where: 485 Silvercreek Parkway North at Woodlawn, Guelph (take the 20 or the 2A/B Guelph Transit Bus)
Sessions last approximately 90 minutes. There may be a waiting time to be seen.
Call Here4Kids for Prenatal to Age 6:
To access services and supports for children from prenatal to age six in Guelph and Wellington County, call Here4Kids: 1-844-454-3711 (4KIDS 11).
Call Here 24/7 for Children/Adolescence Ages 7-18:
If you are in crisis or wish to discuss whether CMHA has the right service for you, call Here 24/7: 1-844-437-3247 (HERE 247).
For young children there are several books that may be helpful for families:
- It’s time for School, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
- This School Year will be the Best by Kay Winters
- First day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
There is also helpful information for parents at www.anxietybc.com.