Ease up on the back to school hype a little – it’s not fun for everyone.
Let’s be honest. Back to school isn’t fun for some kids. In the wake of increased acts of gun violence – either in or out of school settings – some kids are scared. And you know what? So are a lot of adults. Bullet resistant backpacks are on sale, schools are increasing security measures and school staff are attending “active survival trainings” (which I recently attended myself).
It is no longer the innocent days of past when visions of crisp smelling textbooks, reuniting with friends and the anticipation of cool field trips existed in the absence of worry, depression and feelings of uncertainty. Kids are thinking about a lot more than that now. Thoughts like
- “Am I safe?”
- “Will that bully come after me again?”
- “What will be said about me on social media?”
Of course, it is not all gloom and doom. Lots of AMAZING, GOOD things happen in school every day. Caring teachers and staff embrace students as their own, the sound of giggles float through the air at recess or lunch and students make amazing academic and social gains every day.
Ways to Help
I want to encourage everyone within reach of a child, either your own or someone else’s, to be mindful of the wide array of anxiety, sadness and fear that many kids battle every day. We don’t want to diminish the excitement of back to school time but, I don’t believe we can be complacent about the reality of what our kids are dealing with.
According to the Center for Disease Control about 7% of children ages 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety. That’s approximately 4.4 MILLION kids. And these are the kids we know about. This anxiety is compounded by the potential safety concerns occurring in our schools and communities. It’s important we encourage our kids to recognize all the wonderful experiences that can come out of a school year, but please do so with the understanding and sensitivity that it may be difficult for them to push away nervous thoughts about what to do if a lockdown occurs or someone comes into the building to hurt someone.
Check in with your kids. Talk to them. Don’t necessarily take things for face value and please don’t let your own fears or discomfort stop you from connecting with them. Ask them if anything makes them nervous about returning to school. Find out about safety measures in place so you can reassure them as much as possible. If your child is hesitant about returning to school, speak to the school counselor, school social worker or school psychologist in the building who can connect with your child and put plans in place to support them. Lastly, review this for some helpful information about anxiety and depression in children.
We definitely want to celebrate the opportunities for fresh starts, new relationships and great learning this academic year. But let’s also make sure we are recognizing that these kids are living in a different world than many of us grew up in and the “back to school” conversations need to change.