As quickly as the holidays come and go, so do school winter breaks. And, like the way many adults feel about going back to work after time off or a vacation, many kids also don’t look forward to returning to school. This is normal. But, some kids also experience anxiety over the thought of leaving the “safe-haven” that the break from school provided. What is not normal is when a child repeatedly talks about not liking school or wanting to go, or begins to show signs of anxiety.
As a parent, it is not always easy to detect whether your child is being bullied or facing other issues away from your home, which may be causing his or her anxiety. For example, 64% of children who are bullied do not report it for many reasons:
- They don’t want their parents to get involved.
- They don’t want others to think they can’t handle their own problems.
- They’re embarrassed.
Signs that your child may be suffering anxiety from being bullied or facing other issues from school:
Struggling grades, friendship drama or being a victim of bullying are common causes of school-age anxiety, which often displays the following signs:
- A strong dislike for school. This may include repeatedly expressing a dislike for school, ditching and/or frequently claiming symptoms of illnesses to avoid going to school or to come home early.
- A change in friends and social behavior. It could be a “red flag” if your child suddenly starts doing less with his/her friends or is often excluded from invite lists and/or avoids going to social events.
- A change in eating and/or sleeping. Sudden changes in eating and/or sleeping warrant an investigation to the root cause. Examples include excessive sleeping, insomnia, no appetite and binge eating.
- Isolating in room and talking less. Children that are suffering anxiety or depression will often begin to socialize less with others, including their family. When this occurs, the child may try to exclude themselves from family activities, no longer initiate or engage in conversations and “hibernate” in his or her room.
- A decline in grades and academic performance. Often, a decline in grades is a result of the other signs of school-age anxiety. For example, if a child is not getting enough sleep or begins to withdraw from social engagement at school, their grades can be affected.
Grades can sometimes be the root cause of anxiety. This may be the case if your child has had a history of low academic performance, or is struggling with a specific subject or concept.
Helping your child to feel comfortable sharing with you:
If you notice that your child hasn’t been acting like him or herself, seems unhappy or displays any of the warning signs for bullying or other issues, the first thing you should do is try talking to him or her. Planning one-on-one “outings” away from the house can be great opportunities to talk without distractions and to provide your child with a sense of safety and calm so he or she feels better about sharing what is going on at school or anything else that you may not normally talk about.
Click here for more ways to empower your child to confidently address what may be bothering him.
Ways to help your child cope with bullying or other school issues:
Empathy, empowerment and engagement can help increase your child’s self-esteem and reduce his or her anxiety.
Empathy means understanding your child’s perspective from their viewpoint. To be able to understand how your child is feeling, you must truly listen. Part of empathy is asking how your child feels vs. telling or assuming.
Empowerment means helping your child have the confidence he or she needs to make their voice heard. Encourage your child to share his own thoughts or opinions. Whether she’s been a victim of bullying or is having other issues at school or with friends, help her develop a game plan for getting a resolution.
Engagement means helping your child carry out her plan of resolution. Providing support and consistently checking in with your child, the school any other people involved to assist in executing the plan is essential in ensuring your child reaches the resolution.
The Empowered Child book, available on Amazon, provides more information on using empathy, empowerment and engagement to help your child heal from bullying or other issues.
For children who have been bullied, The Empowerment Space program provides a safe space with support, guidance and education to empower bullying victims to heal, address conflict and move forward.