Tomorrow is the first day of the school year. For many it just means new school supplies, a new teacher, excitement to see your friends and maybe dreading homework.
But for a child with school anxiety it brings on bad dreams of feeling embarrassed on the first day of school, worrying the friends you didn’t see over the summer won’t be your friends anymore, hoping your new teacher likes you and thinking of how your going to try your best to stay the whole day at school even if your belly hurts.
Being a parent of a child with school anxiety, as the first day of school approaches, you do all the right things.
You get fun, new folders and pencil cases to try to help the excitement gain traction. You talk up the new teacher saying how wonderful you’ve heard she is and that you heard she gives out gum.
You make sure you have his favorite snacks and lunch ready to be made with a “Happy 1st Day of School!” note. You try and think of something they can carry in their pocket or wear to help calm them during the day since all the things you tried last year only worked for a day or two.
You do all these things while also finding a balance between preparing your child but also trying to downplay the big day.
You sit with your child when he quietly asks you to go in another room so he can talk to you privately about his worries and feelings. And then you try and come up with the right words to help him work through those anxious feelings.
You grow tired of hearing him say his belly hurts every day and then you feel guilty you feel that way. And you know you will send him off to school and pray if your phone rings that day you don’t see the school’s phone number on your caller ID knowing it’s the nurse saying his belly hurts too much and he wants to go home.
You are prepared for a struggle every day and just wish your child could see himself through your eyes.
So my hope for this next school year is that it is the best year yet for any child going through this. That they can somehow quiet those little voices in their head and face each day with the confidence we already see deep down inside them.
I hope that whatever school subject or class that brings on the most anxiety, whether it is math or gym, comes easy and natural to them. And I hope that they realize that their attention to detail, their amazing empathy towards others and their incredibly huge heart are only a few of their superpowers.
As for their parents, I hope that you continue to have the strength to hold back your tears when you tell your child that they are normal because I know it is absolutely heart breaking when your child tells you they just want to be and feel like the other kids.
I hope when you open your eyes in the morning your first thought isn’t always, “I hope he is ok to go to school today.” And I truly hope you know that you and your child are not alone.
So tonight I will put my son to bed and plead with whatever higher power there is to let my kid just be a kid and to make this school year his best year yet.
Because not only does he deserve it but the world deserves to see this incredible little boy the way I see him. His imagination, his humor, his creativity and his smile will move mountains. And I just hope, one day, the mountains he is moving are the ones in his own way.