Here it is… Labour Day weekend! It’s the last weekend of the summer and time to prepare for the fall season and getting the kids back to school! What a beautiful summer this has been! Hope it’s been an awesome summer for all of you, with some vacation time and lots of outdoor activity! As we enter into Labour Day, I hope you’ll enjoy your plans, whatever they may be – enjoying the cottage, finishing up on team sports or preparing for back to school days!
Back To School!
No matter what age, all kids can use a gentle check-in from their parents about any anxieties they may be feeling about heading back to school. So as Sandra Mendlowitz, a psychologist in the anxiety program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, says, “You want the child starting the year off in a confident manner.”
The hallmark of anxiety is avoidance of the thing that is scaring us; for kids, that means they simply won’t want to go to school. The most common way this manifest itself physically is a stomach ache, Dr. Mendlowitz sas. It’s not fake, either; it’s a real physiological response. “It starts the night before or the morning of as the stressor approaches. And if the child doesn’t go to school, the stomach ache goes away.”
For younger children, to ease your kids’ fears, experts suggest mapping out the routine, even walking the route to school a few times. Some teachers will have had open doors this week, but even if you missed that chance, visiting the school grounds can still be soothing. If you’ve been the primary caregiver or seem to be more attached with your four-year-old , it may be clear that she is going to melt down as you try to peel her off you. It may be a good idea to send your spouse or an older sibling to walk to school with the child. And Dr. Mendlowitz says kids are never too young to learn simple deep-breathing techniques to calm themselves down.
Maybe you thought you were in the clear once your kids made it out of kindergarten alive? Transitions to a new school – especially giant high schools for Grade 9 – can be tough for other reasons, including fears around failure, bullying and hazing. The anxiety of being at the bottom of the food chain can be paralyzing, Dr. Mendlowitz says. It’s not uncommon to speak to teens who have not visited their lockers for six months because they have forgotten the combination she says. “They say, ‘I don’t know who to ask.’ They’re afraid to look stupid.”
And let’s not forget, they are also in perhaps the toughest stage of human development. It’s an adolescent’s job to reject his parents. But he, too, may beg to stay home one day, paralyzed by anxiety. You can help them best by not pointing out this disconnect.
“Listening is the most important skill for these older kids. You may think you know exactly what is bothering them, but you might be way off base.’ And once the lines of communication are open, resist the urge to share your own anxieties about high school. This is not the time to talk about drugs, sex or online porn.
Rule # 1. Don’t let them skip school. Parents have to be firm. Consider going to school the best way to conquer their fears. “Every day you do it, it becomes easier.” Routine is critical for children of all ages. In this case, experts say, the goal is to make what was once scary totally boring.
You know your children and what can work for them. For her kids, books and role-playing are big – when the boys faced some recurring fears around monsters, she dug out books that used humour to dispel the fears, such as Go Away Big Green Monster. Art therapy was less successful. When one parent got out paper and asked them to ‘draw their anger’ they looked at her like she was daft.
Also, don’t forget that your face is the ultimate mirror. Listen to your child’s concerns, of course, but don’t be all weepy and sad yourself. Be pleased and excited for your child. Others suggest telling your own stories about school jitters – complete, of course, with a happy ending.
Needing help? How can you figure out whether your child’s anxiety is within the normal range or if you should see a professional? Dr. Mendlowitz says it’s handy to know the definition of a disorder as a constellation of symptoms that interfere with a child’s ability to function. The most common type of anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder, in which children are often described as “worrywarts.” One lesser-known disorder, separation anxiety disorder, can affect teenagers who can’t shed the fierce reluctance to leave a parent that is common among toddlers. It’s the only anxiety disorder exclusive to childhood and the prevalence rate is about 4 per cent for school-aged children and 1.3 per cent of teens, Dr. Mendlowitz says. Ten per cent of North American kids experience some form of clinical anxiety. “That’s a large group,” Dr. Mendlowitz says. “Larger than any other medical problem, but it’s often overlooked.”
Excerpt from the Globe and Mail by Tralee Pearce, 2012
A ‘shout out’ to Crime Stoppers for their commitment to improve the quality of life in the Niagara Region. There are unique policing challenges in Niagara with urban and rural development, a large influx of tourists, our proximity to the States and the effect of the nation’s busiest borders as well as a major summer cottage population in varying communities and a waterfront shoreline that surrounds the Niagara Region on 3 sides. Crime Stoppers helps to provide a greater awareness in the community that there is a crime problem, a willingness by the community to fight back against crime if it is given the opportunity and motivation. and improved relationships between police, media, and the community.
Crime Stoppers is definitely here to stay. It has been accepted by police as a valid and effective investigative tool and the public, through its overwhelming response, appears to have accepted it as a more palatable alternative to traditional methods of giving information.
Thank you for the many Crime Stoppers volunteers and leaders in our community! For more information, or to volunteer, click Crime Stoppers.
P.S. It was a great experience to be one of the main sponsors at the Niagara Falls Crime Stoppers’ Convention in June this year. Here are a couple of pictures from the day’s events.