The Trip Back to School will be Anything but Perfect!

The first day of school marks the end of late night Netflix binge-watching, guilt-free sleeping in, waking up without an agenda, and wearing pajamas past noon! It's so hard to say goodbye to summer! If you're a student or teacher then you'll probably experiencing a little anxiety about returning to the grind of school. Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? 

For older students, symptoms include obsessing over having the right clothes and book bag, thoughts of "what if I'm the only one who (fill in the blank)", missing the bus, getting lost in the building, being unable to open the locker, being late for class, not knowing anyone in class, having no one to sit with at lunch, or being teased for any of the above. 

For younger students, their symptoms include a list of "What Ifs": What if my Mom misses me while I'm at school? What if I don't make it to the bathroom on time? What if my teacher is mean to me? What if I get bullied? What if I lose my lunch box? What if no one wants to play with me at recess? What if I get on the wrong bus? 

Teacher symptoms include worries and obsessions over classroom decor (anchor charts, posters, door decorations, bulletin boards, desk arrangements), To-Do lists, money for supplies, the perfect Open House outfit, having the class roster from Hell, classroom procedures and hand signs, not having enough time to eat lunch, having to hold pee until the planning period, not getting a planning period at all...the worries literally go on! 

Even parents have their worries about getting everyone up on time, making lunches, morning traffic, and rearranging their schedules to accommodate the new routine. It's an anxiety fest for all involved! 

So what's one thing you can do to make the trip back to school easier?  Give up the illusion of perfection! 

If you're a teacher, then go ahead and give yourself permission to screw up not once, but a few times. It's really not going to be the end of the world if the smart board stops working midway through your classroom procedures presentation. Really, it's not! Accept that things just happen, you're only one person and you can't control everything and everyone. Your students don't need a perfect teacher, but they do need a calm and loving one. 

For parents, it'll be no easy task trying to explain to your kids that the world won't end if they're the only one without a fidget spinner. But give them space to talk about all of their worries (no matter how irrational they are) without judgement, and make sure you give them time at the end of each day to discuss their "highs" and "lows". Make it a daily routine. Reassure them that even when things don't go well for them during the school day that they can look forward to you listening at the end of it. And remember, your kids are only as calm as you are. So don't lose your cool in the school traffic or put unrealistic expectations upon yourself as a parent that will cause you to be frazzled.  We are all imperfect beings and the school year will be much like all the others--anything but perfect! 

Dr. Victoria Shedrick is a therapist at NWC Counseling in Columbia,SC. She is a former school counselor, and specializes in treating children and adolescents with anger, anxiety, behavioral issues and those adjusting to family changes. She also counsels adults with anxiety, depression and adjustment disorder. 

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