Helping your child with back to school anxiety

Back to SchoolBack-to-school anxiety is normal and expected. Most kids feel uneasy about going back to school after a long summer break. Others may feel nervous about starting school for the first time. Anxious children and teens worry about many different school-related issues, such as teachers, friends, clothing, fitting in, and/or being away from their parents. Whichever the case may be, parents can help ease the transition to back to school with some simple strategies.

Setting the tone

Do you see the difference between these two parental approaches?

“I’m sad… I can’t believe my poor little baby is going to school!”

“This is so exciting! You are going to have so much fun and make new friends. Your teacher is amazing. I can’t wait to hear about your day.”

The first phrase is creating an atmosphere where the child may be reluctant to leave and prefer to stay home with mom or dad. Even though you may have good intentions, this approach could easily be misinterpreted by your child. The second phrase is much more encouraging and supportive. Establishing school as an exciting adventure is more likely to get your child mentally prepared.

Get acclimated

Walk around the school so that you and your child become very familiar with the layout. In particular, locate your child’s classroom, as well as the school cafeteria, gymnasium, library, art and music centers, playground, main office, and other relevant areas. Ask and address your child’s questions and concerns about getting from one place in school to another. Also, arrange for you and your child to meet your child’s school guidance counselor and teacher.

Talk to your child about the school bus (if applicable), this includes the bus number, stops, times and what to do in the case of a missed bus. Practice the routine of getting to the school bus stop near home in the morning and at school in the afternoon.

Follow the routine

Make sure your child gets enough sleep and eats a balanced diet. Getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy diet — especially a protein-carbohydrate balanced breakfast — is important for brain function, mood and the ability to focus and pay attention in school.

Also, give yourself plenty of extra time in the morning. Rushing around in a panic will only add anxiety to the situation. You want to stay calm, focused and prepared. Pack lunches and prep backpacks the night before. Have everything ready – so in the morning things are “relatively” smooth.

Warning signs

Most back-to-school anxiety is normal and manageable. But sometimes fears – yours and your kids’ – take over.

Here’s when to seek professional help:

  • Anxiety is more intense than usual
  • Anxiety doesn’t get better over time
  • Anxiety interferes with eating and sleeping
  • Activities that usually reduce stress, don’t work

Please don’t hesitate to contact Audubon Counseling should you have any questions or concerns about your child’s well being.