The air is getting cooler and the nights are getting shorter. The freedom of summer is
inevitably coming to an end. Back to school can be an unsettling time for parents and
If you are someone doing the happy dance, awaiting the routine, you probably do not
have an anxious child, nor are you going back to school
Below are a few tips from a recovered anxious child! Two degrees, and eight years of
post-secondary education later, I have picked up a few tips and tricks.
1. Visit the school
Unknown and uncertainty are main triggers that can provoke anxiety or worry. You can do
your best to minimize the unknowns buy simply visiting the school.
This is especially helpful when starting at a new school! Sometimes finding your locker,
visiting the cafeteria and meeting a teacher or two can put you at ease.
Navigating a big campus? Try finding your lecture theaters and seminars ahead of time.
This way so you are not panicked trying to find our way around on top of on your first week
2. Allow the worry
As you know, when someone tells you to “stop worrying”, doesn’t help, in fact it often makes
things worse.Now you feel guilty for worrying AND angry for being told what to do. If it was
really that easy to stop worrying, someone would.
Instead, worry openly! Set aside 10 minutes per day to worry. I encourage you/your child to
do this in writing. All feelings and worries are valid! You will probably notice that it is hard to
fill a full 10 minutes with worries.When time is up, say goodbye to your worries for the day–
put them in a drawer or rip them up and recycle them.
3. From What ifs, to what is
When someone is anxious, they are worry about future events that have not yet happened.
“What if I have to eat lunch alone”, “What if I cannot find my classroom”.
What if thinking makes anxiety much worse! It can be replaced by What is thinking. This
type of thinking requires you to stay in the present.
Research shows that mindfulness, returning to the present, can help rid you of the tendency
to worry. The easiest way to do this is to focus on your breath.
My favourite technique for children is 7-11 breathing. Inhale to the count of 7 and exhale to
the count of 11 for 5 to 10 breaths.
For adults, my favourite technique is alternate nostril breathing. You can find more
information here (1).
4. Take mindfulness one step further
Just to make sure we are really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the worry.
Have you ever jumped when you thought a spider was crawling on you, but it turned out to
be your clothes? Remember, worry is the brain’s way of protecting us from danger.
Ever had anyone tell you to think positive? And you may have heard that teaching your
children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted
thinking is not positive thinking; it’s accurate thinking.
Try a method called the 3Cs (2). These are great ways for anxiety sufferers, parents and
children alike, to work through anxious thinking.
Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble
(like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like “No one at
school likes me.” (Personally I like to use clouds instead of bubbles)
Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child
not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts.
(Supporting evidence: “I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday.”
Negating evidence: “Sherry and I do homework together–she’s a friend of mine.”)
Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your
children to have a debate within themselves.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
Watching your child suffer from anxiety can be difficult and confusing. Also, suffering from
anxiety yourself can be frustrating and embarrassing.
As there is know known cause of anxiety, there is no point in beating yourself up about
it.Research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e., diet, genetics,
brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). So you
can rest assured that you did not cause your child’s anxiety and you are not responsible for
However, I recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor, who can address many of these
multifactorial causes of anxiety through diet, exercise, acupuncture and mindfulness
Most importantly, remember, you’re not alone! Time to stop criticizing, and forgive yourself.
Appointments with Dr. Wiggins can be booked HERE