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Posts Tagged "Back to School"

Alleviating Back-to-School Anxiety with the Brain in Mind

September 08, 2023
By Whitley Morrow, NHCS Biblical Counselor

Goodbye, Summer Break, Hello New School Year!

Many of us love the back-to-school season, it is exciting to think about what the Lord will do during the upcoming school year. However, the back-to-school season can be incredibly intimidating for students entering a new academic year with new challenges.

How can we alleviate our child’s back-to-school anxiety with their developmental stage in mind? To answer this question, we have to understand what anxiety is.

Anxiety is the anticipation of danger or threat. However, when we are feeling anxious, we are simultaneously experiencing worry and fear.

Worry is the cognitive component of anxiety, while fear is the psychosomatic response to a real or perceived danger. Our kiddos may fear returning to school because of perceived danger, such as bullying or failing a test. This fear leads to worry, which leads to troublesome thoughts and behaviors.

The Bible speaks immensely about anxiety and fear. It is filled with inerrant truth about who God is and who we are in light of Him. How does this correlate with back-to-school anxiety?

His emotions are perfect and without flaw. Our emotions are given to us by God and have a God-given purpose. However, because of sin our emotions are imperfect and flawed. Therefore, we have a dilemma. R.C. Sproul says, “The human dilemma is this: God is holy, and we are not. God is righteous, and we are not.”

We must cling to the One who is perfect - our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We must stay dependent on Him when times are difficult. We must reflect His glory in all we do, including alleviating our child’s back-to-school anxiety.

Therefore, the goal is not to eliminate emotions. Instead, the goal is to help our kiddos navigate emotions so that they reflect His glory in all that they do. So, how can we help them navigate?

Model Empathy and Offer an Alternative Perspective

Empathy can be understood as compassionately connecting with understanding.

The left side of the brain is inherently logical. However, when we experience big emotions, the left side of the brain can be clouded.
Therefore, we must compassionately connect with understanding because our children’s brains are still developing, and they rely on us to help them navigate the emotional waters.

To model empathy in this way is to connect with our child’s right side of the brain, which is emotional and experiential.

However, modeling empathy does not mean approval. Emotions are ever-changing but real, given to us by God. If the emotion is inappropriate, we can still compassionately connect with our children and acknowledge that they are feeling that emotion. Then, we can shift the conversation by saying, “I see that you are anxious. However, let’s look at the situation from this perspective….”

By providing an alternative perspective, you can harmonize the right and left sides of the brain to produce mental clarity and alleviate anxiety.

Model Appropriate Coping Skills - “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1 ESV)

A child’s relational foundations are important for social development. Social learning nests under social development. You know the saying, “Monkey see, monkey do?” Social learning highlights the reality that we all learn in social contexts.

As parents and educators, we should say follow me as I am following Christ. This is relevant not only behaviorally but emotionally as well. We can practice and model healthy coping skills, such as box breathing, so that our kiddos can know appropriate ways to respond to big emotions.

Remind them of Christ’s Character - “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11)

One question must be answered before we can remind our kiddos of Christ’s Character - Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah, and Savior of the World. He is God. He is the Savior of the World as He died a criminal's death on the cross as our substitute, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3). Therefore, all who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, through faith by grace will be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We can remind our kiddos of the shepherding quality of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can explain that a shepherd leads, guides, and protects his sheep. By pointing to Christ and His character, we can depend on the Holy Spirit to produce lasting change in our children's lives. 

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