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Tips for Managing School Anxiety

It’s the middle of October and school has been in session for a couple of months already.  Hopefully that means the intense anticipation of “what will people think of me?” and “what should I say to people?” is slowly decreasing. However some kids are still struggling with school anxiety, which can be challenging for the entire family. What I hear in my office is that kids have the most problems on Monday mornings.  It can be hard on the whole family when kids are dealing with extreme anxiety and meltdowns.  How do you get through it? Many times the anxiety starts on Sunday night, as the thoughts about the next day start popping up.  Kids often start asking questions about the upcoming school day, seeking reassurance that everything is going to be okay at school.  

There are a few things you can try on Sunday to help decrease the anticipation:

First – set a specific time to talk about the anticipation and worry about school, and then STOP talking about it.  It’s important for kids to know that their parents are listening to them, but constantly reassuring and talking about school and worries can make it worse and anxiety increase. 

Second – Plan a fun activity with the family on Sunday evening.  This can be a movie night, family dinner, or other activity.  Kids need to focus on things other than school or anxiety. These activities shouldn’t be used as a way to “make the anxiety go away”, but a way to enjoy things despite feeling worried.  It’s important for kids to know that feeling anxious isn’t the problem, but it’s letting the anxiety take over.

Third – Have your child pick an activity they can do during the day – art project, visiting a friend, ect.  This does a few things: It helps them enjoy their Sunday more fully and they connect with friends who will be at school the next day. 

These are just a few ideas that might help with the Monday morning stress. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask.  

Summer Vacation Preparation

It has begun, for every parent, teacher and student, the count down to summer.  With Memorial Day just around the corner the intensity of the countdown begins in earnest.  Ask a child how many days they have left in the school year and they can tell you immediately, with accuracy to the minute.  Ask a parent and they are less likely to know the details but feel the upcoming pressure mounting.  What are the plans for the summer, are the reservations set, how will I fill my child’s free time, how will I keep them active and keep the whining to a minimum.  Most children are excited about summer vacation but that lasts for a very short time frame.  The beauty of our school system is the rigorous schedule, your child may not enjoy aspects of it but the reality is schools are effective people movers.  Your child has a schedule that is consistent, predictable and rigid.  Schools fill your child’s day with activities, lesson assignments and order in a chaotic environment.  As parents we can debate standardized testing, classroom size and school budgets but keeping your child on a focused schedule we cannot argue.  Schools have that down to a science.

Breaking that schedule is part of what excites your child about summer plus the anticipation of fun: Fun with friends, fun vacations, fun summer camps and the freedom to break out of the rigid schedule of the school year.  And that lasts for about a week!  The reality is as parents we don’t have lesson plans for every hour of every day.  We have the big plans down, hopefully, but the rest of summer is vague, unplanned, “spontaneous” and frankly boring for our kids.  If your child is getting 8 hours of sleep per night, they are expecting you to fill the remaining 16 hours x 7 days a week.  Are you freaking out yet?  To manage this more effectively take a page from your child’s teacher.  Have a working schedule; give your child a level of structure they have come to expect at school.  This gives them something to count on each day, lowers the pressure to “have fun” and keeps the whining under control. Whether you are a stay at home parent or working professionally out of the home you keep a calendar of upcoming events in order to be successful.  Do the same with your child’s summer vacation.  This structure will feel normal and natural to your child and will minimize the dreaded statement heard every summer, ”I’m bored”.

 

http://www.travelportland.com/things-to-do/events/calendar/

http://www.pdxkidscalendar.com/summer-camps-all-ages/summer-camps-by-focusactivity/

http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks/Pages/index.aspx

 

Summer Camp, Start Planning Now

With last week’s snowfall, sledding, snowshoeing and skiing still fresh in my mind, it might seem strange to be thinking about kid’s summer camp options but that is the topic this month.  Summer may seem like an eternity of rainy Oregon days from now but the reality is in 4 short months your children will be out of school.  Scrambling at the last minute for a slot to your child’s camp of choice is not ideal. With a little preplanning and Internet sleuthing you can quickly narrow down the field of available camps and find the perfect summer experience for your child.

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A couple of things to keep in mind regarding summer camp searches:

  • What is the time frame and does your work or volunteer schedule fit within these parameters?  Why add additional stress to your summer if the start or end time of the camp doesn’t fit into the rest of your schedule.
  • Does the camp have weekly options, day drop-ins, how flexible is the camp schedule? No since signing up for a camp that interferes with your vacation plans, family reunion or summer birthday celebrations.
  • Is the camp a good fit for your child?  The camp might have a great reputation and curriculum but does it fit with your child’s personality? Will this experience be beneficial to your child or cause emotional stress that inadvertently causes more harm than good to your little camper?  Is the camp focus one that will challenge their imagination, creativity and be fun?
  • What is the ratio of instructor to student?  This is critical for a safe and fun experience for your child?  What is the background and direct supervision format of the camp director and the individual teaching your child?  Talk to other parents with direct knowledge of the camp if you are able.
  • We all want our children to make new friends at camp, share experiences and have a great time. If your child is open to new experiences, confident and willing to “jump in” to new experiences without their parents or close peers involved, you are lucky and camp will be amazing for your child. If that didn’t conjure up an image of your child, than the best way to insure camp success is pairing your child up with a close friend. This at least gets them excited about the possibilities of camp, on the bus or out of your car.  You are paying your hard earned money for summer camp and the last thing you need is a daily argument about going.  The friend pairing is the key.  Chances are they will also make new friendships at camp too, but if you have your doubts trust me on the friend pairing.
  • Lastly, remember that camp is for your child enjoyment but also your sanity. It is amazing the level of stress the following sentence can have on a parent, ”I’m bored”.  How soon after summer vacation begins do you hear that whiny sentence? A week, maybe two if you are lucky. Summer camp gives you both something to look forward to and an experience to share at the end of camp everyday.

 

For a list of camps check out the following URL’s, it’s a few lists that might help begin your search.  The rest of the homework on the camp is up to you, but set that snow shovel aside and start looking now. Four months and counting…

 

http://www.pdxkidscalendar.com/portland-summer-camps-guide/

http://autism.about.com/od/schoolandsummer/tp/camplistings.htm

http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/outreach/occyshn/families-youth/upload/Camps_2012.pdf