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Back to School: Anxiety and Stress
Many dyslexic, adhd and autistic children will soon be returning to school after Winter break. This change of routine can trigger, fear, anxiety, and even anger as well as their associated behavior--resistance, reluctance, and disobedience.
As a parent, you are in the very best position to observe the subtle signs of stress and anxiety. In this regard, we want to be far more proactive that simply responding to breakdowns, meltdowns and other obvious signs of stress.
We want to begin watching for the subtle signs of stress. We want to notice how our child's posture changes when she is stressed or relaxed. We want to notice the sounds our child makes, her posture, facial expressions, and the gestures she makes when stressed or relaxed. Even changes in a child's breathing pattern and skin tone can be indications of stress and anxiety.
It is so important that when we do see sings of stress we take immediate action. Please, don't wait for the meltdown. It's too late. At that point, about the best you can hope for is wait it out and not make it worse.
A much better approach is to intervene BEFORE the meltdown. If you act quickly, you can apply any number of techniques to alleviate the stress and prevent a meltdown.
With respect to changes in routine (like going back to school after winter break), one thing parents can do is to review the new routine BEFORE the change. This practice helps alleviate fear of the unknown and, if done properly, create a sense of anticipation for the new routine.
We find it's helpful to review the new schedule or event at least three (3) times: ideally, once, several days in advance of the changes, again, the night before the changes, and a third time, the morning of the changes or event.
Remember, we're also dealing with visual thinkers. The goal is to paint a detailed picture of the changes or event focusing on benefits to the student. Try to make your description as visually compelling as possible and in line with the child's values and goals.
Note: This is your chance to spot signs of stress or anxiety. If needs be, break the changes or event down into smaller parts and walk through each piece to identify the exact source of the anxiety and find a way to address the child's concerns BEFORE the actual change or event.
I hope that helps. Please feel free to contact us for additional information or techniques to help relieve stress and anxiety. Gerry