This is the time of year for "back to school jitters." I am hearing school-related worries from kids starting kindergarten ("What if I can't remember my teacher's name?"), to middle schoolers ("What if I can't figure out how to unlock my locker?"), to college freshman ("What if I can't handle the work?").
The common thread to all these "What if's...." is UNCERTAINTY.
Our tendency as parents is to reassure. And, yes, we should do this...once or twice. We should reassure our kindergartener that it is okay to forget the teacher's name the first week of school. We should help our middle schoolers practice opening their lock a couple of times. And, we should remind our college freshman that all the work that they did for the past 12 years should have prepared them for what is ahead.
But, we should also be on the look-out for anxiety -- repetitive "What if's" about the same topics and a general sense that all the reassurance in the world could not fill the pit in our kids' bellies.
At this point, try the following reply -- "Hey, we won't know till we go."
Life is rife with uncertainty. We can't predict the future. And, that is okay. The important thing we want to tell our kids is that they can cope if that fear were to come true. Let your kindergartener know (once) that he can ask his teacher if he forgets her name (or ask a friend). Review (once) with your middle schooler what she could do if she can't open her locker. Familiarize your college student (once) with the resources available on campus for kids who are struggling and encourage him to not wait too long to get help.
In other words, let's give our kids tips for coping rather than paying undue attention to needless worrying!
I am a licensed psychologist working with kids, teens, and adults with anxiety disorders.