Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Preparing an anxious child

Hi there! Welcome to Almond Place!

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Each of us are sharing a super fun "Back to School" themed idea today. Like my post? You are going to love the others! Stop by and visit all of these wonderful blogs!

For those of you who are new here, let me introduce myself.  I am a creative and musical mama to three littles. I've been married to Jim for 8.5 years and we live in Arizona.

Our oldest son, Andrew is a typical first born. Generally he is internally driven, a rule follower, a people pleaser, assertive when he knows what he wants and bossy to those closest to him. He is also incredibly kind, smart, well liked by his peers, and has a great imagination. Andrew has always been our cautious child. While we have been relatively relaxed parents when it comes to the insulation in his proverbial bubble, he has always well insulated himself from any kind of harm or humiliation.  He is always assessing a situation and asking questions about his surroundings.

This became particularly evident when he began kindergarten a couple of years ago. He goes our local school about a 5 minute drive away. He began more frequent questioning of what class he would be in, who his teacher was, where he would sit, what he would do on the playground, where and when he was to eat lunch, who was dropping him off and picking him up and where.

Walking confidently into Kindergarten!
The year went off without a hitch and he loved the end result of transitioning into kindergarten. With 2nd grade having started this past week, the same questions began creeping back in....

So now that I've more clearly identified his needs by figuring out his pattern, I've decided to be a little more intentional in helping him prepare for his first few weeks of transition into grade one. I hope these tips can be helpful to you if your child is anxious or an over planner like mine!

1. Tour the school: Even though Andrew has been at the school for a couple of years, this year he will be in an entirely new section and have a new playground area. We will do a walk through of the Grade Two area. We will check out his classroom and play on the playground. We will walk to the bathrooms and the cafeteria and the office so he knows how to get to those locations from his new classroom.

2. Meet the teacher: Attend the meet the teacher night if possible. We did this last year and it helped tremendously in easing Andrew's anxieties about his new teacher.

His first time doing "quick" drop off where I didn't walk him in. 

3. Practice pick up and drop off: We will literally do a run through of his drop off and pick up spots both for his bus route as well as the times I will drop and pick up at school. We will also go through a backup plan in case something happens and I am unable to be there unexpectedly.

4. Prep his backpack: Last year, I got him his own house key and made sure he knew his address. I doubt he will ever need to use this or even ever need to make his way home alone but it's there if he ever needs it. This eased a great deal of anxiety for it's a Batman key and Batman is awesome.

5. Have a date: We spent a mommy and Andrew day picking out a new outfit and buying school supplies. We grabbed lunch and just talked. We spent most of the time talking about Star Wars but I made sure to steer the conversation towards school occasionally to bring forward any concerns he might have. Mostly it was just reassurance and confirming my answers previously given many times. It also gave me a chance to share with him how I remember feeling the same way when I was little. He finds reassurance in knowing that Mom gets nervous too.

6. Patience: I'm not going to lie...sometimes his cautiousness and anxiousness drives me crazy...especially when it's a place he has been over and over again. But starting a new school year is unnerving and I want him to be nothing but confident and brave heading into that first day. So I will calmly and graciously answer his questions for the 80th time.  I will make a conscious effort to not let even a hint of annoyance peak through. I will not let my own anxieties of setting him free into first grade shine through because I don't want to give him anything else to worry about.

7. Take it easy: Our school has an out of district bus policy. He is required to take the bus to and from school. This was a huge obstacle for us in Kindergarten because he was having absolutely none of that. Never once did we push him to take it. We encouraged, we talked, we followed the buses on their routes many times and finally he agreed to give it a shot. By the end of January, we had him happily taking the bus TO school. By the end of March, he was happily taking it both ways. In giving him control of that one area, he gained the extra boost of confidence he needed to take the steps up onto that bus. It was not worth the battle for me with him even though we might never have been in compliance with district rules.

Greeting his teacher on the first day!
8. Be there: I mean this literally. If I said I would be there at 2:30 standing on the curb, I was there. I knew he would be anxious if I was late or not standing where I said I would be. I made sure to never screw this one up. He knew who was picking him up, where they were getting him and when....every day we made sure he knew these three things.

9. Get to know the other kids: We were lucky to have a couple of other kiddos from his last two classes so that helped immensely in easing his transition into a new class. I am lucky and fortunate to have the opportunity to volunteer in his class. We quickly made friends and reached out for some play dates so that he would know those other kids were just as awesome as he is. Getting to know their parents a little better was great too and helped me a lot because many of them had older children who'd been through much of this before. 

10. Routine: I get all dragon mom when it comes to this. Again, I'm more laid back, go with the flow of the day but my sweet Andrew is not. He needs to know what's going on. We started a routine and kept it...every single day of the school year. As the year went on, we adjusted when we needed to but the overall day looked the same.

I am so excited for him to start school and I know once we get back into the swing of things he will be as happy as a clam and his anxieties will fade into the background. Hopefully over time, each year of school will push those anxieties farther away. I can't wait to hear about his first day, his new friends and his new teacher.

There are of course so many ways to handle this kind of stress in our kids.  These are some of the tips that have worked for us! I hope this post can help you if you are dealing with a cautious/anxious child. 

Happy Back to School!!

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  1. I loved reading this as it pretty much sums up my oldest who is heading to kindergarten in 2 weeks. Love all the tips and will definitely be using them

  2. These are really great tips!! I have a friend I would love to share this with - I think it will really help her with her little one this year!

  3. Andrew sounds like a very mature and sensible little man:) I like how you took time to work out a way to help him transition to first grade. I think patience and taking it easy are the hardest things to stick to but they are also SO important. The date idea is wonderful.

  4. As a teacher you offer wonderful tips to transition a child into a new year. Visiting the school, making practice runs, all good ones to help a child who feels a bit anxious.