This article by Krista Bjork appeared first here and is used with permission.
Some level of anxiety is common for kids of any age when they go back to school. Add in the frantic rush of Mom and Dad to get everything purchased, fees paid, clothes washed and lunches packed, and the pressure to get everyone back in the habit of going to bed at a decent time and doing homework. It’s easy for the atmosphere in the home to become one of stress and anxiety.
As a parent, you can help your family through this hectic transition. Philippians 4:4-9 gives us a great framework for combatting anxiety.
- Be gentle
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Often we respond out of our own sense of stress and don’t see the ways our kids may be distressed about going back to school. Many kids fear failure socially or academically. Others fear the rejection of being bullied or embarrassed. If we are rejoicing in the Lord and operating with an attitude of gentleness when dealing with our kids and the details of back-to-school, we can set an emotional temperature that will automatically begin to calm them.
- Reassure them of God’s presence with them.
“The Lord is near.” Even if your child hasn’t had a personal experience with God, let them know that you believe God is with them. This may be a catalyst that causes them to draw near to Him or rely on His presence. At our house we say Joshua 1:9 before the kids go out on any new venture.
- Pray with them and for them
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Disclaimer here. We’re not commanding our kids to not be anxious or minimizing their feelings. Instead we’re saying, “we don’t have to be anxious about this because we can tell God about it and ask for His help.” Before you can pray with them and for them, you have to know what their needs and requests really are. Listen first. Even if what they’re stressing about seems really small to you, remember what it was like to be a kid and express empathy for what they’re feeling. Then take those requests to God, with thanksgiving for what He’s done and is doing. Take special time to pray over them and their school year on the first day, but don’t stop there. Work to make it a habit to turn to God together when you or your child feels anxious.
- Focus on what is good
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Listen to what stresses them, offer empathy, and then gently try to redirect toward the good. Help your child focus on who liked them, where they did well, or what went right, what is good about school and how are they are growing. You will probably get the standard eye rolls and sighs, but your voice of encouragement is one they never stop needing.
- Model a healthy way of dealing with anxiety
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” What you model is what your kids will really learn. If you struggle with anxiety, seek help. Learn how to deal with the root issues that cause your anxiety, and to model a Biblical way of conquering it.
“And the God of peace be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)
Whether it's going back to school, trying out for the team, or even going to college, children need to learn how to handle anxiety the right way. You may feel anxiety too as your children grow up and experience these challenges. Remind yourself of these principles, and don't miss the opportunity to impact your children.
M.A. – Luther Rice Seminary
Krista counsels on Monday and Tuesday in the Schaumburg office and Wednesday-Friday via Skype.
Krista and her husband Nate have three boys. As a Biblical Counselor she loves challenging and encouraging others through counseling and writing.