Anything you can do to flourish your child’s emotional vocabulary will help them to make sense of things. Name what you think they might be feeling in a way that makes it easy for them to correct you. "You seem angry/confused/sad right now." Then let them know that it’s okay for them to feel what they’re feeling, and that you understand. Let them know these emotions make sense to you.
You can also talk your child through what’s happening in their brain when they feel anxious. Use this script if you like.
When your brain feels really strongly that it has to protect you (and remember, your brain doesn’t care if the danger is real or not), the fight-or-flight part of your brain forces the thinking part of your brain to be quiet so that it can get on and deal with the danger. If your brain had a conversation, it would probably sound something like this:
The thinking part: "Oh, we have school today. Cool. Let’s do it."
The fight or flight part (the amygdala): "Yeah, no. That’s not going to happen. You’re going to be away from home and you don’t really know what’s happening today. It could be dangerous, so ‘Thinking Part’, you need to sit out while I check it out."
Thinking part: "Dude. It’s school. There’s not going to be anything dangerous. Maybe new or unfamiliar, but not dangerous. You need to calm down, okay? Chill."
Amygdala: "Whoa! You don’t get it. If there’s something bad – and I’m pretty sure there’s a chance of that – then we’re going to have to run for it or fight – but fighting can bring its own bag of trouble – so maybe run. Or maybe just stay away. Yep. Let’s stay away. I’m trying to save a life here and you’re kinda getting in my way."
Thinking part: "For a brain, you’re not being very sensible. Think about it. It’s school. It’s teachers and other kid-sized humans and playgrounds and lunch and things. Nothing at all to worry about."
Amygdala: "Gosh, you seriously don’t get it. This could be deadly. You’re getting in my way, man. I’m sending you offline for a bit while I check it out. Here, have this – some oxygen, some adrenalin, some hormones. It’s superhero fuel, but for you it will keep you quiet. Now, go to sleep. I’ve got this. I’m saving your life. You’re welcome."
By now, the amygdala has surged your body with fuel to make you strong, fast and powerful in case you have to fight or flee. Of course, when it comes to school there’s nothing to fight or flee but the thinking, good decision-making part of your brain is offline, remember.