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Before School Butterflies

In discussions with other moms recently, it definitely seems that their children (aged 3-7) were anxious about going back to school. This year started off with online schooling while waiting to be back in the classroom on Monday 15th February. The thought of wearing a mask all day (for the older ones), the fear of "germs" and no longer being at home can all heighten their nerves.

There is no doubt that this pandemic and lockdown have raised anxiety among adults and children.

How can we help our children cope with their anxiety?

When Lea started preschool last year, she would wake up in the morning and ask if it was a school day. When I would reply that it was, she immediately would say she was excited but also nervous. I would acknowledge her feelings by saying that I also feel two feelings/emotions at the same time and give her an example.

For a child that feels overwhelmed by their nervousness, I would suggest breaking down the steps to get them on their way to school.

We still sing the song from Daniel Tiger most mornings, especially if Lea is easily distracted, which says:

"Clothes on
Eat breakfast
Brush teeth
Put on shoes
And off to school" - Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood
Once Lea was ready for school, I would put on the song "Shake it off" by Taylor Swift and we would dance around the lounge and just have fun. This helped Lea use up some of her nervous energy and leave home on a high note & feeling good.
In a recent car drive to school, Lea said," Mommy I have a sore tummy." I then asked her if it felt like butterflies in her tummy or like she needed the toilet. She replied that it felt like butterflies and she was nervous for school. In her own words, "I don't know why I feel nervous Mom. I know my teacher and the children and I know my school." So cute and wise at 4 years old.
I acknowledged her feeling of feeling nervous on the way to school and asked if she would like to wiggle her butterflies out of her tummy & out the car windows as we drove to school. We wiggled our bodies to school, while we danced to a song on the radio. By the time Lea got to school, she was relaxed and had used up some of her nervous energy. 
Lea feels secure when I leave her at school each morning as we make sure we kiss each other's palms (The Kissing Hand) and I always say, " Bye Lea, see you later".
These are a couple of examples of what has worked for us. I do realise that it helps enormously that Lea is able to communicate how she is feeling which assists me in supporting her. From a young age, I drew pictures of emotions or asked Lea to make a happy/sad/angry face so that she would easily recognise these emotions.
In discussions with other moms, different techniques work for them. One mom found her child's anxiety levels very high and found that play therapy worked beautifully for her child. Another would give her child Rescue Remedy on mornings where she struggled to feel calm. Breathing exercises and reading books together are other examples of how to assist our children feel calm. We know how as adults when someone says "Calm down", there is very little effect.
Our children need reassurance. It is so important that we acknowledge their emotions rather than respond with a "Don't be silly! You can't be nervous".This immediately leaves them unsettled as their feeling has been said to be untrue. We know as adults that our emotions can feel incredibly strong and real. It is the same for our little ones.