How to Help Your Child Manage Back to School Anxiety and Stress  

Back to school season is in full swing. You might be excited to take your child back to school shopping for new school supplies and clothes for the first day of school. You might have noticed that your kid is nervous about the first day of school whether that be for elementary school, high school, or college. It can be hard to go from a long summer break to quickly transitioning into going to school everyday. We are here to give you some tips on how you as the parent can help your child cope with their stress and anxiety for back to school. Let’s get started!

Causes of Back To School Anxiety 

Many fears are rooted in the unknown, especially for children. This could be from not knowing people in their classes, how the workload is going to be, or starting at a new school. This is especially true with those still living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Most likely your child’s classes have been online for most of 2020. 

Going into the fall of 2021, they might be in-person, but now they have to worry about wearing a mask all day long. In addition, they might be unsure if they have the same friends at school as they did before the pandemic. All these feelings are completely valid and make sure that your child knows that. If you find your child is having trouble sleeping from being anxious due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can check out our solutions to sleep issues during the pandemic here

Stress School puts on Students 

School is supposed to be a place where your child feels safe to grow and build their tool box of knowledge. They start in kindergarten, giving them space to be creative by coloring and writing out the alphabet with crayons. Sooner, rather than later, school turns into a competition. Who can learn the most vocabulary words? What score did your child get on the last standardized test? Are you going to get into college with that GPA? 

Striving to get the right grades in school can put a lot of stress on your child. At the end of the day, all those statistics about how smart your child is is not going to make them successful. They are the ones that make themselves successful from the lessons they learned along the way, not the numbers. So, be gentle with your child and give them the space to learn and grow as a person instead of having straight A’s written on a piece of paper. 

How to Identify Anxiety 

Anxiety around returning to school is completely normal and it is important to give your child ways to cope with their anxiety. When kids are anxious, it can sometimes be hard for them to put into words what they are feeling. The biggest clues for you are their behavior. 

Here are some examples of behavioral cues to show that your child may have anxiety: 

  1. Restless and fidgety 
  2. Complaints of stomach aches 
  3. Displays changes in eating and/or sleeping habits 
  4. Appears more clingy than normal 
  5. Expresses negative thoughts or worries 
  6. Gets upset or angry quickly 
  7. Has moments of unexplained crying 
  8. Struggles to concentrate 

    If these behavioral clues last longer than two weeks and it interferes with their daily life, then you should take your child to a professional to get them a proper diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. Getting proper treatment will help to set them up for success for the rest of the school year. 

    Child sitting at a desk in school while wearing a face mask

    Ways to Help Reduce Back To School Stress 

    Going into the new school year, you need to be there with your child every step of the way. This is a big transition for them and having you there to talk to after school will help them relax after a long day. Help your child ease stress by helping them establish a routine. This will let them know what to expect for most of the day and lose the feeling of stressing over the unknown. 

    Along with establishing a routine, here are some other things you can try to help your child with anxiety: 

    Talk About Their Stress 

    When your child starts expressing how they are stressed about the first day of school, be there for them. Ask them what they are worried about and what they are excited about happening throughout the school year. If they don’t want to talk about it just yet, that’s totally okay. Just let them know that you are there for them and they can come to talk to you when they are ready. 

      Establish Fun Traditions for The First Day of School 

      When the first day of school rolls around, try to make the day or the day before special. Maybe, have an end of summer pool party the night before or make special waffles for breakfast. Making those yearly traditions can make it a day they look forward to every year instead of dreading. 

      Promote Healthy Living During the School Year 

      As school starts, your child has a lot of responsibilities compared to during summer break. As they balance school work and extracurricular activities, make sure that they get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. This is important for their developing brain function, mood, and ability to focus. If they are struggling to sleep by themselves through the night, think about getting them a weighted blanket. It will help them to feel like there is someone there with them to sleep through the night and ease anxious thoughts. To take it a step further, you can use essential oils to create a relaxing environment to stay asleep. Learn more about sleeping with essential oils here. 

      Give Your Child Say 

      We talked earlier about the importance of establishing a routine for your child so they know what to expect. Allow for them to have some say while you are creating a routine for them. This will allow for them to feel like they are in control of their day, instead of feeling like they are being controlled by someone else. 

      Making Friends 

      A lot of kids might worry about making new friends and fitting in. Finding a good group of friends helps them build a foundation to deal with the ups and downs of school. It can be scary for your child to put themselves out there with fears of rejection. Work with your child to help them understand that building friendships is a skill, so they need to practice to get better at it. That could be working with them to learn how to show interest in others’ comments, finding common ground with others, inviting people to do things, and so forth. This will help them to develop empathy for others and find great friendships that will last them a lifetime. 

      Organize Ahead of Time 

      Help your child go through their supplies for school and organize it. This will help them to know where everything is and they won’t have to stress about missing something on the first day of school. Make them a place where they can do their homework and plan out how they can handle their homework load. 

        Be Present 

        When with your child, make sure that you are present with them. Assure them that they are not alone and you’re there with them every step of the way. During the school year give them little reminders that you are there for them, like putting a surprise note in their lunch box on a big test day. 

          Final Thoughts 

          Well, the school bus will be pulling up soon and your child will be starting a new year of school. Your child’s emotions about the first day of school, whether that be excitement or stress, are completely valid. Be there for them as best you can and if you need to contact professionals to find the best steps for your child to handle their stress.  

          Contributing Writer: Madeline Collins