🎶” It’s the most wonderful time of the year”🎶….
We’ve all seen that commercial, the one that boasts happy parents who high five each other as they frolic down the aisles of the store as if to say, “yes, we’ve made it to the home stretch of summer” all the while eagerly filling their shopping carts with school supplies…noting the bummed out kids dragging their feet behind them. Summer is almost over. Sound familiar to anyone? 🙋🏻♀️🙋🏾♂️
Truth is, for some children (adults too) this time of year can be a huge trigger for anxiety.
I know for us, the last two weeks of summer are usually filled with all the last minute summer bucket list items and getting our minds and selves organized for the back to school chaos that will ensue in just a short time. It also brings transitions and the not so subtle thrust back into routines, changes in temperatures outside that bring forth shorter days and crisper nights and the excitement and uncertainty of the school year ahead mixed with the growing pains and maturity that accompanies the expectations of being one grade older. All of this can be, a recipe for what I call the emotional anxiety tornado. 🌪
In the past, this tornado has scooped us all up, spun us around like the tilt-a-whirl ride at the fair and spit us back out again; dizzier and more anxious than before.
But, having weathered this storm for several years now, I have come to recognize some of the warning signs in our children (and truthfully myself) to help ease us all into the new beginnings-before the alarm bells 🔔 start ringing.
One thing I’ve found helpful is getting us all back into a normal sleep routine. Starting this during the last 2 weeks of summer by dialing back our bedtimes and reigning in the routine helps to ease everyone back into proper sleep hygiene without it being a total shock to the system. Being over tired and not getting enough sleep tends to be a huge anxiety trigger in our household. So catch those 💤
While speaking on bedtime routines, which can often become mundane and boring for our kiddos-afterall, have you ever met a child who’s excited for bedtime? 💁🏻♀️🙅🏻♀️
Be creative with it…perhaps some Epsom salts in their bath water, or some lavender essential oil in their lotion🧴, or a new bedtime story…(I heard Sweet Honey Kisses for an Anxious Bear is a good one 😉) or a delicious smelling fizzy bath bomb🛁 or soothing music🎵 would help. We also invested in a weighted stuffed lizard🦎 for our oldest and a small weighted stuffed elephant 🐘 for our youngest, and our oldest also sleeps with an eye mask, which I’m told helps allow his brain to settle quicker. So perhaps one or two of these would work to help make those earlier bedtimes more fun. Don’t forget those gratitude journals too, or at least discuss some things that you/they are grateful for. This alone does wonders to help shift the brain from anxious thoughts to pleasant ones as they doze off to dreamland. 😴
Practice makes progress! This age old cliche rings true for re-establishing routines and introducing new ones. What we’ve found helpful, especially for young ages, is eating lunches out of lunch bags; opening containers and packages and asking for help-encouraging those self advocacy skills. This can ease the “what-if” anxiety that often partners with something new.
Toileting and dressing are two other self-help skills that could be practiced to help boost confidence in abilities and comfort. Setting aside the time to practice these skills has been a huge anxiety reducer for us. Sending them to school, knowing they can take care of and advocate for themselves was a big breath of relief!
Play! This is a big one. Children learn and explore through play. We found it helpful to role play. We let our children be the teacher 👩🏻🏫👨🏽🏫 and we were the students. We discussed through our roles, the rules of the classroom and the expectations of being a student and teacher. We talked about some of the sensory stimulants that they might experience when at school-which also transferred into new environments in general.
Our oldest was sensory sensitive at a young age, so I felt it would be helpful to explain the new noises, sights and sounds so it wouldn’t be as much of an overwhelming surprise.
We practiced walking to and from the bus stop 🚌 together and sang songs like The wheels on the bus, on our walk.
We also took our play to the school yard! Playing on all the new and exciting equipment and showing the boundaries of the school yard before school started was a great help. Our children were excited to play there everyday and slowly, we started to see their anxiety make a small shift into excitement…we were making progress!
The night before is always buzzing. Shoot for an early bedtime 🕗, maybe lead into it with a short (2-5min) kids meditation 🧘🏾♀️🧘🏻♂️ (YouTube, google and Spotify all have great ones!) for some soothing and grounding breathing exercises-yes, even those 3 year olds can do this with practice. 😉
On the day of, if there are tears and sore tummies, rest assured that it’s completely normal (even for us parents!) Patience, love and encouragement makes a huge difference for comforting exhausted and anxious Little Bears . Feel free to check out this blog post below to see what else we did in our house to combat separation anxiety.
From our house to yours, I’m wishing you all a wonderful first day of school. Make the most of the last couple weeks of summer and always remember, you can do anything! Good get ‘em Little Bears. 🐻🤝