5 Tips for Managing Back to School Anxiety
As the summer winds down and the school year approaches, both parents and kids alike begin to experience anxiety. Kids often wonder, “Who will be in my class?” “Will I like my teacher?” At the same time, parents worry about managing their kids schedule, helping with homework, and making sure their children feel supported and at ease. Below are five tips to help ease the transition back into the new year:
1. Listen to your child’s worries without automatically trying to fix them
When your child expresses anxiety, listen to their concerns and validate their emotions (e.g., “I know it’s really scary to start a new school.”) However, don’t automatically reassure your child that everything is going to be ok. At the end of the day, you can’t promise your child that they will get straight As, have an awesome teacher, and never have any issues with friends. Instead, you can express confidence that your child can manage the situation (e.g., “I know it’s really scary to start a new school and I know that you will be able to manage it.”). By doing this, you are increasing your child’s own confidence in their abilities to handle stressful moments and times of change.
2. Plan ahead
If you know your child struggles with being on time and getting ready in the morning, create a plan before the year starts. The plan could include any of the following:
- Set specific alarms throughout the morning to keep your child accountable and aware of the time.
- Create a positive reinforcement system for being on time (e.g., Every day they are on time to school, they get 1 point; and a certain number of points can be redeemed for a reward.).
- Create a healthy nighttime routines with a set bedtime and time in which screens are turned off.
- Pack lunches and backpacks the night before.
- Make sure that you practice the plan at least a week before the school year starts.
3. Problem solve
If there are specific solvable problems that your child is anticipating (e.g., a difficult teacher or not knowing where classes are), help your child brainstorm possible concrete solutions that they can enact
4. Check-in with your own anxiety
Every parent brings their own set of worries and expectations to a new school year. However, its’ important for parents to manage their own anxiety and stress in order to model confidence and calmness.
5. Eliminate avoidance
It’s not uncommon for anxious kids to try to avoid going to school. Kids may express physical symptoms of feeling unwell or try to miss classes in which they have challenging subjects or teachers. But, by even letting kids miss one day of school, it creates a snowball effect of avoidance. If you are having trouble getting your child into the school building, ask for help – call your child’s social worker, teacher, or therapist.
The beginning of a new school year is stressful and exciting for everyone involved. By applying these tips, both child and parent can set the foundation for a successful school year.