There are some back-to-school traditions like picking out new clothes and school supplies that can be fun, but for many students the back-to-school season is filled with feelings of dread. Some students struggle with the fears of being judged by their teachers and not being accepted by their peers. This social anxiety can be crippling. However, with the right coping strategies, social anxiety is manageable. Here are 5 tips for overcoming back-to-school anxiety.
1. ADOPT HEALTHY MENTAL HEALTH HABITS AND ROUTINES
Poor diet and lack of sleep can make symptoms of social anxiety worse. If your child has been staying up late and sleeping in all summer, help them get on a “back-to-school schedule.” Beginning about two weeks before classes start, have your children go to bed and wake up a little earlier each day. Provide healthy meals and encourage regular exercise as well to help stimulate them both physically and emotionally.
2. TALK ABOUT IT: DON’T BOTTLE UP SOCIAL ANXIETY
Encourage your child to talk about their fears or other emotions they might be experiencing. Naming the problem (social anxiety) helps children understand why they’re anxious and makes it easier to cope.
3. ADOPTING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE INCREASES MENTAL HEALTH
Encourage your child to reframe negative thoughts in a more positive light. For instance, he might say, “None of the kids in class will like me because they already know each other, and I’m new.” Help them adopt a more optimistic mindset by substituting that thought with, “I may not be the only new kid at school, and I can be a good friend.”
4. HELP YOUR CHILD DEVELOP INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
Avoiding interactions with peers is one of the signs of social anxiety, but doing this can aggravate the problem. Help your child have a successful back to school experience by coaching them on “friendship skills” through role-play. Teach them to initiate conversations, be a good listener, join groups, and ask questions to draw people out.
5. TEACH YOUR CHILD RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Relaxation techniques can go a long way toward alleviating social anxiety. Deep-breathing and relaxing tense muscles, beginning with the neck and shoulders, can help your child calm down. Your child can also learn to direct their thoughts away from anxiety triggers.
If signs of social anxiety persist or are severe enough to interfere with your child’s ability to function, seeking professional help may be in order. Ridgeview Institute offers comprehensive services to promote mental health in schools. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.