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How to Deal with Back-to-School Anxiety
After the summer season comes back to school time for all parents and children. It’s impossible to miss or fly under the radar of your attention when there are back-to-school sales in every store you go to, and classroom lists show up in your mail.
Hopefully, your child is excited about the prospect of returning to school and learning with his or her friends, but it is also possible that your child will experience hesitation or even fear which is referred to as back-to-school anxiety.
This is not uncommon– after all, change is hard and the transition from the comforting months of summer to the busy and scheduled school days is a big leap. However, there are ways that you can help guide your child through this.
Below, we will discuss some of the causes of back-to-school anxiety, as well as some different ways that you and your child can tackle it together.
- How to Deal with Back-to-School Anxiety
- What Causes Back-to-School Anxiety?
- Tips for Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety
- Avoid This When Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Back-to-School Anxiety?
Part of what often causes back-to-school anxiety is the impending change. After all, anxiety is a form of stress. It could manifest in the form of general nervousness or jitters, or in a more physical sense. Your child may experience symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, nausea, or tremors.
It can be helpful to get to the root of the issue so that you can target and solve the problem. If it is not just a general, nervous reaction to change, back-to-school anxiety can be caused by things such as falling out with a friend, a new or difficult teacher, adjusting to a different learning environment, or the unknown.
Lionheart Foundation – A Resource for Kids, Adolescents and Parents
The Lionheart Foundation was established to help people. We are a holistic mental health organization that helps kids and parents navigate the things of life.
If you are experiencing back-to-school anxiety or your child is, please feel free to fill in the form below and tell us your story. We have a mental health professional that can get in touch and see what we can do to help.
Lionheart Contact Form
Tips for Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety
Back to school should be an exciting part of the year for you and your child, but that is not always the case! If your child is dealing with back-to-school anxiety, it can make this transition a tough one. Read on for some tips for helping your child through their back-to-school anxiety.
Prepare Your Child
One of the best things that you can do to combat back-to-school anxiety is to make sure that your child is prepared! You can do this by having a discussion about school, what to expect, and the upcoming academic year. When you initiate these conversations, it encourages your child to feel encouraged to speak up about their own fears or concerns. Doing so can be cathartic and is a release for your child– which is key in overcoming the thoughts and feelings that are causing the back-to-school anxiety.
Create a Positive Home Atmosphere
Combatting back-to-school anxiety starts at home! You should make sure that, at home, you are discussing school in a balanced way. Yes, there are aspects of preparing to go back to school that are stressful, but the impending change can also bring on new opportunities.
This is similar to showing good behaviours so that your child will model their actions after yours. If you create a positive atmosphere at home, your child will begin to think about all of the good, happy things that going back to school brings, rather than worrying about the other stuff. There may be times that you recognize even subtle or small things that your child is looking forward to.
While their anxiety is taking up a lot of space, it’s also great to point out and celebrate the small things that might brighten the experience.
Encourage Your Child to Connect With Friends
You can also encourage your child to make new friends or to talk to their friends about school and their nerves.
Of course, it is valuable to talk to your child about their fears as the parent, but sometimes hearing from their friends and peers about how excited and nervous they are for school can be even more helpful for a child.
It can help them to recognize the balance of fears and opportunities in others and make them feel excited about going back to school, too.
Take Them With You Back to School Shopping
The school year creeps up faster than we sometimes expect and back-to-school shopping can often feel like a chore for us parents. It’s likely that you just want to take the school supplies list and do it yourself, leaving your child at home or at swimming lessons so that they do not slow you down. However, this can be another way to create opportunities to expose your child to think about school in a non-threatening way.
Let them pick out their own school supplies, or a new school bag, for instance– having things that they’ve chosen on their own will go a long way in making them look forward to using them in the classroom! It can help re direct attention of your child to associate school with something more positive and be a fun shopping trip experience.
Help Them Plan and Organize
Depending on the age of your child, you may have been planning on doing this anyway. However, it can be helpful for you to sit down with them after your back-to-school shopping is complete so that you can help them organize all of their things for back to school.
This could include helping them to organize their stationary, pencil box, or their backpack. Make a checklist together to ensure you have everything ready to go– this can help remove your child’s fears or your child’s anxiety about forgetting anything on the first day. It will make them feel more prepared for their first day of school.
You could also have your child help plan school lunches, most kids like being involved when it comes to food, it may just help your child feel that more prepared and look forward to a fun meal.
Implement Their School Schedule Early
One of the things that can be hardest to get used to is the back-to-school schedule or routine– especially after a relaxed, no-schedule summer! Don’t wait until the night before school to start getting your child back to bed earlier and to implement these sorts of changes.
Instead, start the school schedule a week or so before school is supposed to start. If an early morning outing is needed to soften the blow of their new routine, make a plan to go to the school grounds to play. This will help to ease your child back into the swing of things and offer even more subtle exposure to school. Plus, it will also make them get a good nights sleep and help them feel more well-rested once they have to start getting up early in the morning.
Help to Create Structure
Last but not least, help your child to create structure, and stick to it! This is similar to the above tip, where you should get started with the back-to-school schedule. You should not expect your child to be able to get up and ready in the morning all on their own, for instance– at least, not while they are still getting used to things. Help them by getting their clothes or book bags ready for the next morning, and teach them how to set their alarm at night. Also if they take the school bus and are maybe it’s their first school year doing so and they are not yet comfortable with it, explain the bus route to ease your child’s mind and be sure to walk them to the bus to see them off.
Avoid This When Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety
Above, we gave you plenty of tips to implement if your child is dealing with back-to-school anxiety. However, what you do is just as important as what you do not do. Read on for some of the things that you should avoid saying or doing when you are trying to help your child over their back-to-school jitters.
Dismissing the Anxiety
If your child is telling you how they feel, or that they feel a certain way, you never want to dismiss how they are feeling! This can lead to them not wanting to open up or share in the future, and it does not solve the problem of anxiety itself. It is not a helpful method.
Do not brush it off– instead, try to talk through it with your child and be understanding of what they are saying, address specific worries and validate their feelings.
Even if you think that going back to school isn’t a big deal through your adult eyes, this can seem daunting and overwhelming to a child– and these feelings are valid.
Making Negative Comments About School
Whether or not you have negative feelings about your child’s teacher or school– or other related factors– you should not voice these opinions or make any kind of negative comment about them to your child. If you do this, it can have an effect on your child without you realizing it!
Disparaging comments about school or your child’s teacher can create a negative, toxic atmosphere. It can also lead your child to associate school with this kind of negativity. It can then increase your child’s fear and anxious feelings about going back-to-school. So, think before you speak!
Telling Your Child to Get Over It
Another thing that you should avoid doing is telling your child to get over their back-to-school anxiety. It doesn’t work like that. Even if you feel that their anxiety is silly and misplaced, it is a very real emotion for them. It is important for children to voice their fears and other emotions as they grow, and for parents to demonstrate presence with these feelings and always address them with a calm tone. There can be many reasons why your child could be facing anxious feelings attending school, from changing schools and starting a new school, starting a new schedule they are unfamiliar with, fear of meeting new students, new classroom, being around older children or even other kids, whatever it is, simply listen to your kids worries so you can help put those anxious feelings to rest.
You should also avoid telling your child that everything will be all right, without stopping to truly listen to them and offer a balanced perspective.
Another thing that you should not do is compare your anxious child to kids who are not anxious about going back to school.
Shaming them is not helpful, either.
Getting Too Involved
Now, this one may be tricky. Of course, you want to jump in and help your child whenever they are going through something tough, we know that it is our job as parents to guide and to protect our children – we’re good at this!
In the case of back-to-school anxiety or nerves, though, you should avoid getting too involved and trying to solve things for them. This can result in them getting the unintended message that they aren’t capable of handling it on their own. Instead, give them the space and the time that they need to work things out on their own.
This will be healthier for them and teach them how to work through issues themselves. Your confidence in them will go a long way in uncovering their own self-confidence!
Getting Frustrated with Your Child
This is not always easy, but avoid getting frustrated with your child. Of course, nobody is perfect, even when we try our best– so, if you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a step back and take care of yourself to alleviate this frustration. Do not take it out on your child or show your frustration to them.
Sometimes, we can unintentionally project our own fear or anxiety onto our kids, so you will want to be sure to avoid doing this. Getting stressed or frustrated in the morning when you are trying to get your child out the door for school can even lead to some of their back-to-school anxiety, in some cases.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is anxiety?
By definition, anxiety is an excessive or persistent worry and fear about normal, everyday situations. There are both mental and physical symptoms of this condition. The mental symptoms include this excessive worry, as well as feeling restless and tense, or deciding to avoid certain situations or settings that may make you worry.
Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety include a fast heart rate, sweating, racing thoughts, irritability, rapid breathing or hyperventilating, and even feeling tired or lethargic.
Why is my kid anxious about going back to school?
Some children may be anxious about going back to school after quarantine from COVID because this was very different and scary for everyone. There were clear messages of unsafety offered by health officials, teachers, parents, etc. While these were well-intended and meant to keep people safe, we must begin to reacclimate to the safety that environments like schools have to offer.
However, back-to-school anxiety is not something new, and it was an issue for children even before COVID. The change after having all summer without school can be difficult.
Also, your child may be nervous or anxious about going back to school for a myriad of reasons– these include adjusting to a new environment or classroom, falling out with an old friend, or being assigned to a new teacher. The best way to find out if they know of a reason is to talk to your child.
How can I help my child with anxiety back to school?
One of the most important things to do if your child is having back-to-school anxiety is to first figure out why they are so anxious or nervous in the first place. For instance, are they nervous about meeting their new teacher? You can then work on the root cause together.
Some other things you can do are try to get them excited about school by bringing them along for the back-to-school shopping or helping them to practice their routine for getting ready for school in the morning. Some children don’t have a reason, don’t know why, or aren’t sure what is making them nervous.
This is also a common experience and can be dealt with in a similar way. The important thing here is to be attuned to your child and interested in all of the things that they are experiencing.
Is it normal to have anxiety about going back to school?
Back to school anxiety is normal because it is a transition like any other, and is something that many children do struggle with. However, it is not normal in the sense that it should be ignored!
This is something that you will want to attend to and, in order to do so, you will first need to identify the feelings and sensations that your child is having that make them anxious and fearful about school.
You can then support them through these feelings and recognize their inner strength and courage as they work toward taming the beast!