By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Continued from part 1 of this article…..
Helping teens and tweens minimize back to school anxiety involves being there emotionally and physically if they need to talk, but also allowing them time to explore healthy coping mechanisms on their own. Parents who structure a healthy school environment for their child are mentoring the importance of education in their family. Below are suggestions that can also help.
1. Prior to school have a schedule of when phones and computers will be turned off for the night. Kids need a structured routine and bedtime just as much as small children do.
2. Discuss transportation. Who will take whom where. Who is driving (and who will be with them). Make sure you are clear about the route they will take.
3. Your child should be responsible enough to do their own laundry, clean their own room and have their clothes ready for school each day. Doing too much for your child, or taking care of what they are capable of doing on their own is a no-no.
4. Know your child’s classes and which teacher your child has for each class. Attending the open house night prior to classes beginning is very helpful for children and their parents.
5. Talking to your child prior to the semester about which classes may require additional tutoring is helpful. Your child can plan their after school activities easier and with less stress if they know you are supportive with them getting additional help if they need it. Anxiety is the worry of what will happen prior to it ever happening. The more parents can help alleviate the worry, the better.
6. Reassurance goes a long way! Kids need to know you are on their team, with things they worry about.
As your child heads off to college you may think your days of separation anxiety are over. Just the opposite is true. When kids leave home, it’s a transition for the child as well as the parents. Every parent feels somewhat emotional when they drive away and leave their child behind to begin a new life on campus. Whether you have looked forward to this day or dreaded it, it will happen, and preparing your child as well as yourself will minimize your anxiety. These few suggestions will help:
1. As much as possible reassure your child that they will do well and that college is a wonderful experience.
2. When you let your child off on campus this is not the time to insist on hugging, kissing or making a scene. Many kids aren’t comfortable with public displays of affection, so writing a letter of how you feel about your child and leaving it somewhere where they can read it in private will be appreciated by them.
3. Call your child or communicate with them in the same manner you did in high school, but let them set the pace.
4. Plan a bi-monthly or monthly family meal where your child will come home and reunite. For families who live far away Facetime or Skyping are wonderful ways to reunite.
5. Remind your child when they are concerned or worried that you are near, and that you have every confidence they can handle the situation.
Separation is part of life, and learning how to separate from the ones you love most is a lifetime lesson. If your child has difficulty, it will usually pass, but when it doubt, speaking to a counselor is always helpful. Reminding your child that mistakes are learning tools and that we all make them, helps lessen their anxiety when they are trying to be perfect in their new surroundings. Most children I talk with tell me the one thing mom and dad gave them that pulled them through many anxious transitions was the fact that they could always go home. Kids need to know their family will always be there no matter where home (geographically) is.
– Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.