Back to School: Anxiety — Kindergarten and Grade One

Make your child a priority today!

For many students the first day of school doesn’t only mean new teachers and new friends – it can also be a source of anxiety.

Children as young as three may show signs of stress, several months before school even begins. This fear can be pretty intense.

Your young children may fear that something bad will happen to them and there will be no one to take care of them. They may worry about getting lost, not being able to find the bathroom in time and having an accident, not knowing when they will be going home or who will be picking them up.. Make sure to use every orientation opportunity so that your child is familiar with the school, their classroom, and their teacher. Feeling connected to the teacher can help to relieve your child’s anxiety. Tell your child who will pick them up and when. Don’t be late. A child who is waiting to be picked up is anxious. Ask the teacher how she helps children who are crying.

 Take it easy and make getting ready fun!

Fifteen Tips

  1. Label all your child’s belongings, including hats.
  2. Get kids’ sleep schedule ready for school two weeks prior the first day of school. Sleep makes kids smarter and more able to cope with stress. Put your child to bed earlier and wake her up earlier. Make this change in small increments. Children under the age of 12 need 10 to 12 hours of sleep.
  3. Choose clothes that are easy for your child to put on and take off.
  4. Have your child draw a picture to give to the teacher.
  5. Practice a good-bye ritual such as rubbing noses cheerfully, then kissing, and, with a smile, saying, “I love you. Enjoy your day and I’ll see you at 3:30.” When you are leaving your childn never sneak out without saying good-bye.
  6. Do as much preparation as possible the night before. Lay out clothes, pack easy, nutritious  lunches, and have backpacks at the door.
  7. Reassure your child that you are packing an extra pair of pants and socks in a plastic bag in his backpack, in case of an accident.
  8. Get a good night’s sleep.
  9. Prepare and plan a calm morning schedule.  A predictable routine is calming for children. Rushing increases stress.
  10. In the morning of the first day, get yourself ready first.
  11. Be calm. You may add to your child’s stress if you are stressed.
  12. Give your child an appropriate comfort object. For example a picture of the family, or with bright red lipstick kiss the back of your child’s hand with an all-day kiss.
  13. Provide a nutritious breakfast. Even young children, as young as 4 or 5, can pour a bowl of cereal.
  14. Arrive early to help your child engage with other kids.
  15. Plan a fun activity, such as a bike ride with you, for the end of the school day. This can give your child something to look forward to.

What if your child cries when you about to leave?

If your child is teary-eyed it is likely that he is afraid, feels unsafe, and doesn’t know how to self-sooth.

The two extreme reactions are to “rescue” too soon or to leave the child crying.

Don’t say, “Don’t be afraid.” Young children can’t separate themselves from their feelings. Children may feel shame if they are not allowed to express their feelings.

Instead, show empathy.  Hold your child and say, “I know you feel sad. You are okay. You are safe.” Recognize your child’s effort to be brave.

A calm teacher can play an important role here, by doing something to engage your child and by having a welcoming ritual. A child who feels connected to the teacher is usually less anxious.


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The Countdown Begins!

I’ve been teaching/coaching parents for more than 30 years. Yet when the countdown begins for my next workshops my heart still bubbles with joy and anticipation. I look forward to meeting everyone, new faces and old. Even more so, I look forward to sharing the research, information, and resources that have  helped so many amazing parents to be the parent they dreamed of being — calmly managing the most difficult situations.

Knowing that we all want the best for our kids, I teach skills that will help you to stop yelling and shaming. We all know the intense pain of being shamed as a small child, feeling like we are flawed and unlovable.young girl trying to block out sound of parents arguing When we shame our kids we promote behaviours like lying because many kids would rather lie than feel the pain of being shamed.

Children are people too.

The primary difference between healthier families and controlling or permissive families is that parents in healthier families allow children to grow up as persons in their own right.

“If you bungle raising your children, nothing else matters much in life.”

—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

I enjoy giving parents up-to-date tools that work. I relish parents’ comments afterwards, like “I did that, Win, and I was amazed — it really worked.” These simple tools do work, and perhaps more importantly, they leave your child’s self-esteem intact too. I love to use the analogy that just as you would never use a typewriter again — once you’ve used a computer — you won’t want to  use outdated parenting tools again either, once you learn about these effective, time-efficient tools that truly make parenting easier and more enjoyable!

canstockphoto-2It’s just amazing how — if you make what seem to be small changes — you can change your relationship with your child forever. It will be calmer and more peaceful. And your child will want to co-operate, and listen to you because your child will trust you more. These skills and resources will hold you steady right through the adolescent years.

 


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How You Can Support Your Children After the Tragedy at the Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut

All children are
our children.

School shootings can deeply affect us and our children. For children who hear about the event, reassure them that it is natural to worry and feel scared about their safety and the safety of their school.

Limit exposure to news coverage

First, please keep children away from news media, at least for a couple of days, especially news coverage on television and other screens. Children do identify with the fallen children and the children who survived the shooting. This is scary for them and they can imagine themselves in that situation.

Talk & Listen to your children

Our children are our future.

It can help children to first hear you tell them what happened. Be open. They need to know that you are open to talking about it.

Before talking with your children, make sure that you are in a good emotional space–calm, not angry or scared. Children can handle sadness, and you can tell them that this violence is scary for you too. Your children tend to model you.

Start the conversation. Don’t lie. Don’t over-share. How much you share depends on the age of the child. You know your child better than anyone so trust your own assessment of how much to share.

We used to think that there is no need to burden children under 5 years with this information, but now — if they are in school, on school buses and in school yards — even these young children may find out about the event and need support.

Although this took place in an elementary school, the shooter was a 20 year old young person. Adolescents and young adults will, also, be affected by this event. Open up the conversation with them, if they don’t: “Have you heard what happened?… What do you think?…”

Psychologists who work in the area of trauma and recovery advise parents to use the troubling news of school shootings as an opportunity to talk and listen to their children. It is important, say these psychologists, to be honest. Parents should acknowledge to children that bad things do happen, but also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers and local police.

Young children may communicate their fears through play or drawings. Elementary school children will use a combination of play and talking to express themselves. Adolescents are more likely to have the skills to communicate their feelings and fears verbally. Adults should be attentive to a child’s concerns, but also try to help the children put their fears into proportion to the real risk. Again, it is important to reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment — school, home and neighborhood — safe for them.

Parents, teachers and school administrators also need to communicate with one another not only about how to keep kids safe, but about which children might need more reassurance and the best way to give it to them.

From the American Psychological Association:

Keep it simple and age-appropriate. After giving the facts of the event, follow your child’s lead. Some children will be clingy due to the stress that they are feeling. That’s okay. For some children the facts are enough, and they want to move on. Some children will come back later to talk and ask questions. Some won’t.

Be your child’s emotional coach

When children can talk about their feelings it lowers the intensity, makes feelings more manageable, and it connects you with your children heart to heart.

  • Allow all feelings. What is your child feeling? What are you feeling?
  • Don’t try to fix or change their feelings. Just help them tell their story.
  • Help your children to label their feelings as sad, mad, glad, frustrated, scared…
  • Show empathy.

Reassure them

Tell them: “This rarely happens.” “Right now we are safe.” “Right now you are safe.” “We and your school will do everything we can to keep you safe.”

Help them to connect this tragic event to something positive

Tell them some positive things about this tragedy–how people showed support–the policemen, the firemen, and the helpers. People brought food and flowers and people all over the world sent supportive wishes.

Role-model and teach coping skills.

Your children need you. No one–neither teachers, nor friends–can take your place. This is a reminder of how important it is to spend time engaged with your children, and to connect with them heart to heart.

  • Spend time doing something that they want to do. Spending as few as 15 minutes doing this can make a difference for your child. Boys, especially, often talk more when you are doing something with them.
  • Take a walk, watch a funny movie–anything that helps you to cope.
  • Perhaps you and your children could do something to show support–send a card, a drawing…

Know the warning signs*

Most children are quite resilient and will return to their normal activities and personality relatively quickly, but parents should be alert to any signs of anxiety that might suggest that a child or teenager might need more assistance. Such indicators could be a change in the child’s school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, school refusal, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomach aches, or loss of interest in activities that the child used to enjoy. Also remember that every child will respond to trauma differently. Some will have no ill effects; others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event.

From the American Psychological Association:

*If you child shows any of these warning signs don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

 

From my heart to yours.


 


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