Let me paint a picture for you. It’s Sunday night, you’re home with your family, and your son is a nervous wreck. He’s worried about getting his homework done on time, bullies, after school activities…pretty much anything that’s associated with school. He’s preoccupied with tomorrow, and now his anxiety is the focus of the entire family.
School anxiety is a common issue that many children and teens face. Here are 5 tips that you as the parent can use to help them overcome it.
1) Don’t try to rationalize – A parent’s first instincts when they see their child suffering is to try to fix the issue. It’s a natural response, as you’ve been fixing their problems since they were born. In the case of anxiety, many parents will try to explain to their child that they shouldn’t be anxious by giving them reasons why things are going to be okay.
Anxiety doesn’t work this way. It is the body’s intrinsic response to what the brain perceives as a threat, and a core component of our “fight or flight” instincts. During these periods of anxiety, they are not receptive to rational arguments, because they are receiving signals from their brain that they are in danger. No matter how reasonable you are with them, it’s not going to overcome their inherent survival mechanisms.
2) Validate their feelings instead – Phrases like “I see that you’re dreading school, and I’m so sorry that you feel so worried” or “Sunday nights are always so hard for you, I get it” go a long way toward calming those fight or flight instincts. Once they have calmed down, they will be much more receptive to your words of wisdom.
3) Make a plan that addresses their anxiety – For example, if their school anxiety is centered around their ability to complete their homework on time, help them focus on what they need to do to get it done. Often times, worrying about homework becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The anxiety over the homework preoccupies them to the point to where they can’t focus on getting it done. Make a plan to help them complete their homework, and have them focus on the individual steps.
4) Sunday Funday – Create a Sunday ritual that they will look forward to. “Sundae Sundays”, where you make ice cream sundaes at home, a family movie, play a board game, find a Netflix series to watch that you all like, etc. Engaging your child in this way helps them to stay in the moment, and not dwell on their school anxiety.
5) Help them accept – You can’t change Mondays, and neither can they. They can accept that fact, or they can fight it. Think of what it’s like to get a shot. If you are tense and resistant, it’s going to feel a lot worse than it will if you can stay relaxed and accept that it’s going to happen.
Sunday Night Dread is a common challenge that many parents face. Use these 5 tips to help your son or daughter overcome their school anxiety, and get your Sunday nights back!