Therapist explains how to help kids manage school anxiety and use it as a force for good

Returning to school in the fall has probably never been more challenging.  You've got the impact of homeschooling, fears about illness and overall stress - so how do you make the mornings easier?

Structure and routine can bring a lot of comfort to the mayhem of a busy morning. But what happens when young children are struggling with separation anxiety? 

Birmingham Maple Therapist Carrie Krawic says parents need to have a strategy that doesn't dwell on the problem.

"One mistake parents make is of course tend to their child who is in distress," she said. "But when it comes to separation anxiety, the longer the good-bye goes, the longer the child's distress goes. Even though it is hard you have to sort of peel them off and scoot out of their line of vision as fast as you can - and let them go into their day.

"Often you hear from teachers that once they are in their day and you are out of sight, out of mind, they are doing fine."

If kids are feeling anxious about their day ahead- here's a little game.

"In my house, I have two little kids that are feeling a lot of stress and we play a game called five blue things. So on the way to school instead of thinking about everything we are sad or worried about, we try to look for a car, the sky, or a sign and that helps the brain do a little mindfulness activity to kind of take them away from those anxious or upsetting thoughts."

Kids and adults talk a lot about anxiety. Carrie suggests reframing the word anxiety.

"Anxiety itself isn't bad, anxiety that helps us get prepared and ready for our day or ready to do hard things is good," she said. "It is really panic that is the (type of anxiety) that makes us incapable. So that is what we want to watch out for.

"Coaching your kids on how to use their anxiety for good, using it as a superpower (like) how are you going to get prepared and organized to take little steps to approach hard things."

Remember what experts have told us - anxiety is driven by fear of the unknown. So as parents can tell kids- it's true we don't know a few things, our lives keep changing. But what we do know, is we have the tools, and we are ready to handle those changes.