Back 2 school
We know that transitioning back to school after a 3-month break can be tough for both children and parents. For some children, anticipating a new grade, a new classroom, a new teacher, making friends, facing bullies, feeling “uncool” or coping with academic pressures can fuel anxiety, even dread. This anxiety may be experienced through such symptoms as headaches, stomachaches, sleep difficulties, and even school refusal.
Back 2 School will help parents understand how to help their anxious child transition back to school. We will discuss the "morning routine," what to do if your child refuses school, and many other challenges that your child may have with returning to school. Parents will also have an opportunity to ask “What do I do when….” questions.
Randy Floyd, LSCSW, Founder, Clinical Level Therapist
Randy is the founder of Midwest Anxiety. He is a Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker who is an optimist and passionate about helping people focus on what they can do rather than what they can't do. Randy believes that building a strong therapeutic relationship and tapping into a person's strengths are the most essential components of the therapeutic experience. Randy is passionate about changing the way we do mental health. He is focused on making mental health normal, a positive experience. He is also adamant about doing mental health differently. Randy believes the "old ways" suggest mental health is for the "broken" or "mentally ill." Randy believes that "Everyone Struggles." Sure. Some people struggle more than others, but everyone struggles with something. With this belief, Randy is focused on providing a wide range of programs and services to help people be mentally well ;) Go give Randy a fist bump on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Reilly Dodd, LPC
Reilly is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has over 12 years of experience in education both as a teacher and school counselor. As an educator, Reilly has a unique and effective approach to counseling and understands the importance of building healthy family relationships. She loves working with children, parents and families to help them reach their full potential. Reilly believes everyone faces challenges and loves the concept of a growth mindset to help people realize that challenge and obstacles are a natural part of the learning and growth process. Go check out what Reilly is up to on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
2 HOUR CLASS
Hour 1: Morning Routine
We will discuss how to handle the morning routine when your child may have trouble getting out of bed, move slowly, cry, and many of the other behaviors that are associated with not wanting to go to school. We will also have time to get your questions answered.
Hour 2: Trouble at Drop Off, Phone Calls During the School Day, School Refusal
We will discuss how to handle it when your child has trouble at drop off and/or may call you during the school day to pick him/her up from school. We will also have time to get your questions answered.
WEEK 1: Morning routine
Let's Talk About It. It's "normal" to be anxious after a 3 month vacation.
Don't be worried about talking about going back to school. Talking about it helps normalize the process that you and your child are going through together. Don't be afraid that talking about it may make them more anxious. It's important to talk about your child's THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, and BEHAVIORS about situations that makes your child nervous: lunchroom, the new classroom, new teacher, etc.
- Accept your child's feelings as true and valid. It doesn't help to tell your child how or how not to feel. "There's nothing to be worried about." That invalidates your child's feelings and it doesn't work. Listen and validate. Use something like "I understand you are nervous because...." "I could see how you might think that..."
- Acknowledge and normalize the feeling, and then move toward action. The point isn't how you feel. Normalize the feeling as part of going back to school. As a parent, acknowledge you feel that way when..... The point isn't to get stuck on the feeling. It is what your child does once she/he has the feeling.
- Remember the life skill you're teaching here. The long term point isn't about getting your child on the bus or in the door of the school. It's about handling the "firsts" in years to come. These skills you are helping them build will lasts into their adulthood. You are helping them manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for a life full of first days.
Worried about bullies, school shootings.....
- Ask your child "Where do you feel safest at? What time and when?" Most of the time they will say near teachers. They probably be scared more in restrooms, hallways, school buses, lunch room. Where there is least adult supervision.
- Encourage your child to talk with school staff. "If you did have a problem who would you go to?" We want them to get comfortable and take responsibility for talking with teachers, counselors. It will have more of a direct impact.
- Look for a friend. Use the buddy system.
Limit Your Reassurance, Accommodations, and Avoidance
Lessening your child's anxiety for the short term (today) only reinforces it for the long term. It keeps coming back and strengthening.
Reassurances- Be careful not to overly TELL your child things to make it easier. Your child will become dependent on hearing those reassurances from you over and over. At the most tell your child "Whatever happens you can handle it."
Accomodations- Be careful not to overly DO things for your child to make it easier. Your child will be accustomed to these accommodations and it will be more difficult to get back to the norm.
Avoidance- Be careful not to help your child avoid the anxiety. Show your confidence that your child can "handle it" by suggesting going into the anxiety.
Ask your child lots of questions. Help him/her problem solve. Don't fix it for them. Have them take responsibility for managing anxiety.
Good Back 2 School Skills for Your Child
- Smile- Smiling has direct impact on mood. You can't be smile and cry at the same time ;)
- Encourage- Be positive towards other classmates.
- Eye Contact- Builds confidence.
- Conversation Openers- "Hi! My name is ....... Whats your name?" "I like your backpack."
Develop a system that operates in the background. Don't get into the prompting business. Eat your bon bons in the morning ;)
- Constantly evaluate your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the morning. Remain balanced. Matter of fact.
- Make a schedule that has the time and activity. Let your child regulate if he/she is off on time and activity. Try not to step in.
- Focus on effort not achievement. Randomly reward positives. Consequence by "owing" not being on time.
- Don't get caught up being late to school.
- If your child is late to school, work with school to hold your child accountable for being late.
- Anxiety about going back to school is normal. It is a "process." You should see that each day it gets a little easier for your child. We hope your child will fully adapt to school routine by the end of the second week.
- Remain balanced with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Don't get anxious yourself. Model confidence for your child.
- Reiterate "You can handle whatever happens today."
Week 2: Trouble at Drop Off, Phone Calls During the School Day, School Refusal
While we want you to be empathetic and normalize Back 2 School, it is important you establish clear expectations and boundaries with your child about going Back 2 School. Remember.....the more you do for your child, the less your child is doing himself/herself. For your child to build skills there will need to be some challenges at drop off and during the school day. It's okay if your child struggles with Back 2 School ;)
behavioral modification SYSTEM
Consequences: Your child will “owe” you time. Owing you time can include anything from chores to writing you a letter how your child will handle the situation differently next time. Your child does not do anything “fun” (watch TV, video games, play with toys, etc) until ALL the time is owed back. The goal of this is for your child to determine that he/she is giving self consequence and he/she does not have consequence if makes good choice. It is very important to keep track of time in minutes and seconds and consequence be for exactly that amount of time.
Rewards: Give "Random Rewards." A “Random Reward” is any reward you give your child when he/she doesn’t expect it. Give Random Rewards to reinforce positive behaviors (i.e. putting shoes on without your help, smiling, etc.) The main point of a Random Reward is to reward them randomly when they least expect it. For example, “Wow you did such an awesome job this morning, lets celebrate and go get ice cream.” Rewards are not to be given on a schedule of “you do this, you get this.”
Separation Anxiety Disorder is a psychological condition in which an individual has excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment (like a mother). Separation anxiety is often characterized by some of the following symptoms: persistent, excessive worrying about losing the subject of attachment, persistent, excessive worrying that some event will lead to separation from a major attachment, excessive fear about being alone without subject of attachment, persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure (like a mother), recurrent nightmares about separation, difficulties with drop off at activities (school, birthday parties, sporting events).
Note: It is highly encouraged the child, parents, and school agree to the specifics of this protocol prior to initiation. It is important that child separate from parent by choice rather than a teacher, counselor, principal, etc. intervening by pulling, carrying, distracting child.
1. Determine how long you will allow for complete separation (typical drop-off) from child (at least 2 weeks).
2. Discuss with your child in confident (non-negotiating) voice that complete separation will occur within established time. It is important for child to see that parent is calm, confident, and in control.
3. Give child choice to determine gradual plan for separation such that child chooses specific places in school to separate. Always begin separating at classroom and then move backwards from classroom. For example:
Aug. 23 - 26: Drop off at classroom
Aug. 27 - 31: Drop off at school office
Sept. 1 – 4: Drop off at front door
Sept. 5: Drop off at curb
The important part is to establish that you will determine when complete separation will occur and the child can choose how it happens. It is very important for the child to understand that once you drop off at a certain point from the classroom that you will not move closer to the classroom again.
4. At drop off point you will say one (only one) good bye. You will then become non-negotiating and not talk to your child, no eye contact again. If you need balance, stand against a wall. You will wait for the child to separate from you. This is very important, as you want the child to begin learning and have confidence that he/she can separate from you. You have to be prepared that the first several times that it may take an extended period of time for your child to separate. It is important that you not give in early if you want child to learn that you are not going to give in. If you stay strong, separation will occur but you have to wait it out.
5. Establish for every second your child is late to class, your child will have to stay after school or have to “owe” you at home for the amount of time your child is late to class. It works best if the school will allow your child to stay after school for the time he/she is late. If staying after school is not an option, then when your child gets home they have “owe” you for every second they were late. Owing you time can include anything from chores to writing you a letter how separation will be different the next drop off. The child does not do anything “fun” (watch TV, video games, play with toys, etc) until ALL the time is owed back. The goal of this is for your child to determine that he/she is giving self consequence and he/she does not have consequence if not late. It is very important to keep track of time in minutes and seconds and consequence be for exactly that amount of time.
6.) Give “Random Rewards” when your child is being brave, separating from you. A “Random Reward” is any reward you give your child when he/she doesn’t expect it. Pick out all the things that you want your child to do on his/her own (i.e. walking into school without holding your hand, smiling, etc.) The main point of a Random Reward is to reward them randomly when they least expect it. Maybe randomly reward when you pick up your child from school, “Wow you did such an awesome job this morning, lets celebrate and go get an ice cream.” Rewards are not to be given on a schedule of “you do this, you get this.”
Phone calls/texts During the School Day
There are several different ways to handle phone calls/texts during the school day. Your child needs to know your expectation.
- No phone calls/texts during the school day. Encourage your child to connect with his/her teachers, counselor, etc.
- Limit phone calls/texts to a specific number. Once your child reaches that number you will not answer. Gradually reduce number of phone calls/texts over time.
- Allow your child to call/text you when needed. Your child will "owe" you the time after school for the time spent on phone calls/texts during the school day.
Four Reasons for School Refusal:
- To stay away from objects or situations at school that makes your child feel unpleasant physical symptoms.
- To stay away from social or evaluative situations at school that are painful to your child (Social Anxiety Disorder).
- To receive attention from a parent or a significant other (Separation Anxiety Disorder).
- To obtain tangible rewards outside of school that make skipping school more fun than staying in school. Home is more fun!
- Nothing. Just let it ride and see how it goes ;)
- Take some more LIVE or Pre-Recorded classes. This class pairs well with Kiss & Go, School Refusal: Parents, Socially Anxious, Growth Mindset for Parents.
- Need more help than just a class? Try the Monthly Club or Individual Therapy.
- Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Do you want to connect with other people who may have similar struggles? Wanting some extra resources between classes? Join the Everyone Struggles closed Facebook Group. This is the common place I encourage people to "hang out" between classes to get peer support and extra resources from me. Hope to see you in the Everyone Struggles group soon ;)
We believe social and emotional wellness can happen in many different ways. We offer a variety of services for children, teens, and adults to help improve self-awareness and better manage social and emotional struggles.
We've designed our services to build off each other. So what you learn in the classes will help you in the Monthly Club and the Monthly Club will put you that much further ahead in Individual Therapy. You don't necessarily have to go in that order. Just know, whatever level you begin, we'll help you build a good foundation of Cognitive Behavioral skills and cheer you on until you are rockin' it ;)
Let's stay connected
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Limits and Restrictions:
The materials distributed are provided with the understanding that the author and presenters are not engaged in rendering professional services. This is a psychoeducational class and information in the presentations or group discussions by the presenters, facilitators, or participants should not be considered to be medical, psychological, legal, financial, or spiritual counsel. The presentations and written materials are not intended to provide medical, psychological, legal, financial, or spiritual services or counseling. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Any opinions, finding, recommendations or conclusions expressed by the author(s) or speaker(s) do not necessarily reflect the views of Midwest Anxiety, LLC.