Allan Bloom states that “Education is the movement from darkness to light.” Summer is over and school is back in session. Transitioning to the school year can be an exciting time, yet it can also carry worries for everyone. Students can struggle with worries about classes, schoolwork, and classmates. Worries connected to transitioning to the school routine and structure, and how to support students during this time can surface with parents and guardians. It is important to remember that worries connected to the back-to-school transition are normal feelings for all. Research has shown that a student experiencing significant amounts of anxiety can struggle with being able to focus and receive information – necessary tasks for succeeding in school. Thus, providing students with time and space to process worries not only validates and normalizes her/his feelings, but also provides an opportunity for problem-solving. A sense of control and predictability can enhance feelings of safety and alleviate worries. Being able to problem-solve potential “what-ifs” and explore options for these scenarios provides students with a sense of control. Further, discussing a structure and routine for school and extra-curricular activities provide predictability for the school week.
It is also normal for parents and guardians to experience worries connected to the beginning of the school year. As a parent or guardian, take time to explore and process your feelings. What are your worries about the school year? Are you reacting to the student’s anxiety? What are your options for problem-solving? Who can you connect with for support? Processing worries parents have is just as important as processing those of the student.
The school year can also bring about fears of being the target of bullying. The American Justice Department research reports that 1 out of ever 4 kids will be bullied sometime throughout their adolescence. Being the target of bullying can exacerbate worries the student already feels. Advocating for targets and contacting school administrators for support is a necessary step. Schools should have a policy in place for when students are targets of bullying. Further, exploring tools for targets to enhance their rights and voice their boundaries can provide a sense of control and confidence. For students that are not targets of bullying, seek to engage them in a conversation on being an “Upstander” and ways s/he can significantly disrupt the bullying dynamic.
Overall, though the school year can be filled with worries, it can also be filled with positive experiences and accomplishments. Providing students with a space to explore, process, and problem-solve will allow them to be aware of the positive experiences the school year has to offer. In honor of Bullying Awareness month, Bully Free Beverly will hold a conversation to discuss resources available for understanding and eliminating bullying (see details below). To connect you or your family with a therapist that can provide a safe space to explore challenges that surface during the school year, contact Beverly Therapists.