As my teenage son headed off for his first time at sleep away camp this summer, I knew that worry would show up. The situation was new, unfamiliar and there would be no contact between him and us for 2 weeks. I felt worry creeping up, and so did he. I sat with him about two weeks prior to the beginning of camp to help him brainstorm some ideas about how he was going to handle worry when it showed up at camp. We came up with a list of the worries about camp and then how he was going to handle the unknown and uncomfortable. I wanted to give him the opportunity to figure out what would work for him, and help him learn how to tolerate and cope with this new uncomfortable venture.
As September approaches, school will be starting and for some kids worry will show up. A child may talk about not wanting to go to school or avoid back to school shopping. In my practice as I work with clients I tell a child it’s normal to feel that way about school. However, we have to figure out together how to tolerate being uncomfortable and learn what to do when worry shows up. If we avoided all things we worried about we would have a very boring life and miss out on new experiences with friends.
It does not really matter what the child’s worry is, worry is predictable and often shows up the same way each time. It’s how we worry that’s important to understand. Worry shows up, tells you things that make you feel uncomfortable, or scared. If a child respond’s with avoidance of the situation or screaming and crying through it then learning does not take place.
Here are several tips to keep in mind:
These strategies can be applied to any situation. The key is to start now, don’t wait for worry to show up. Kids need to know that when a situation that comes that is unfamiliar to them they can handle it. Asking for help is handling it, trying different things that work and don’t work is handling it. Problem solving is not about doing it right all the time.
For additional information on these strategies Lynn Lyon's psychotherapist writes about it in her book "Anxious Kids Anxious Parents", which I highly recommend. For an additional back to school tips check out my blog article on 6 Ways To Ease Back To School Anxiety https://www.roselapiere.com/blog/archives/08-2017. If you are interested in ideas on how to help kids who refuse to go to school check out my webinar on a play therapy approach to school refusal. This workshop is geared for therapist or school counselors on how to develop a plan and use strategies when working with kids who refuse to attend school (2 APT non-contact hours, and 2 NBCC hours). Don't wait for the school year to start, get those interventions in place now. https://courses.jentaylorplaytherapy.com/courses/a-play-therapy-approach-to-school-refusal.
ROSE LAPIERE, LPC, RPT-S, ACS