Tips for Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety

Everyone gets nervous for a new year

Are your kids feeling the onset of back-to-school anxiety? They are not alone. Students and parents alike can be triggered with feelings of nervousness and fear at the mere thought of jumping back into the school year routine, meeting new teachers and friends, and adjusting to a new grade level of expectations. Here are some ideas for easing into the transition and calming first-day jitters:

Start your routines

Many kids and parents experience back-to-school anxiety

Start preparing children for the upcoming transition by resuming school-year rituals before school starts. Get them back in the habit of structured bathing routines, limiting screentime at night and returning to earlier bedtimes.

Go shopping

Include children in the purchase of back-to-school materials. When kids pick out new backpacks, shoes, lunch containers and notebooks, it helps build a sense of excitement for when the school doors open again.

Avoid the crowds

Go early for teacher meet-and-greets before the halls get busy, or see if the teacher will set up a time when your child can visit the classroom privately and on a day where he/she will not be overwhelmed by crowds of people. You can also rehearse the drop-off or spend time on the playground so your child feels comfortable with the surroundings.

Fear of the unknown is temporary

Validate the child’s worry and acknowledge that ALL children are feeling the same way just before the start of school. Remind them that after a few days it will seem very normal, again, and those jitters will quickly fade away. If, after a few weeks, you feel like your child’s anxiety isn’t subsiding, you may want to consider speaking with a school psychologist or making an appointment with a mental health professional to see what else can be done. 

Let them relax

When kids are overwhelmed with emotion from the first day, they may be more exhausted than usual at night. Try not to push the younger ones too hard on small things that might only exacerbate their emotions (i.e. it’s okay if they don’t finish dinner or skip chores or even a soccer practice within the first 1-2 days of school, etc.)

Communicate your concerns

Email your child’s teacher ahead of time to let them know if he/she may be over-anxious about going back, especially if you think the worry is a little more intense than the normal first-day jitters. Until your child’s teacher gets to know them better, they may not have a sense of how distressed your child may seem, so it never hurts to give them a “heads up” so they can check-in with your child and make sure they are okay. 

Focus on the positive

Try and talk about all the exciting things about going back to school. Remind your child they are going to be with their friends, again, and even make new friends!  With COVID-19 becoming less of an obstacle to in-person learning, schools will now be going back to doing all of the FUN activities such as field trips, dances and other exciting events. 

Remember, having back-to-school anxiety is normal

Many of our children have endured a lot of changes and inconsistency within the education setting over the last two-and-a-half years, which is probably only adding to their anxiety. Reassure nervous children that they have already overcome so much and, now, with the support of parents and teachers, they will continue to persevere and be stronger and more adaptable learners because of their experiences!