It’s that time of year again, the end of summer break and Back to School time! Is it me, or does this come earlier every year? Creating a little anxiety?
The start of a new school year can be an exciting time, but the first week of school can also be full of anxious feelings and bumps in the road. Whether your child is starting Kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, or even college, your child maybe having a stressful time at the start of the year. The important thing to know is there are small steps you can take to help your child cope. Here are some helpful tips and ways parents and kids can get through the first weeks of school and manage anxiety levels.
5 Tips to Dealing With Back to School Anxiety and Stress
First Step is Practice School Routines
Getting enough sleep is so important, begin to establish your routine early. Get your kids going to bed on time and waking early to save yourself serious grouchiness on the first day of school. Our bodies and minds take time to adjust to routines. If your kids (or you) have been staying up later and sleeping in it will take time to get used to being up earlier. Get started ASAP in order to have peaceful, easy morning routine this start of school year. Just kidding, those don’t exist, but this will make it easier!
Have an Open Conversation about your Child’s Concerns
Ask your kids how they are feeling about the new year, do they have any school jitters, questions or worries? Is there anything that would help them feel more prepared? Talk to them about what to expect so the transition isn’t jolting to them. New routines, new school, new teacher, new classroom, new classmates, a lot may have changed since last year. Many people fear that having these conversations will create worries that weren’t present in the first place, but just asking open questions about how they are feeling and letting them lead the conversation will allow your child to voice whatever is on their mind.
Address any Worries or Signs of Anxiety
As a parent it is easy to hear our kids’ worries and use the old classic “there’s nothing to worry about.” Shockingly, that doesn’t help! Talk your kids through the worry, see if there is anything you can do to address the concerns ahead of time.
- Can you or a family member walk around the school so your child is familiar?
- Can you contact an older child who can talk to your child about what to expect in this new situation?
- Work with your child on coping skills to calm those first day of school nerves.
Create Transitional Objects to Ease Separation Anxiety
- Send little notes with lunch
- Use rubber bracelets to remind your kiddo that you’re thinking about them. You can both wear one so they know you’re thinking of them too!
- Put a family picture in their school bag or notebook
Address Negative Attitudes
For kids with negative attitudes towards school here are a few common things I hear and how I address them (please note all of these conversations occur in an understanding and empathetic tone!):
- I want to stay home and play with friends- all your friends will be back in school! If you stay home, you’ll just be hanging out by yourself and it won’t be as fun as you think!
- School is no fun, all we do is school work- Can you think of a few things you like about school? Someone you’re looking forward to seeing?
- I hate school- After exploring for serious issues (bullying, learning differences/disabilities) I discuss with children how this attitude is a choice. We talk about how school is somewhere they will be for many years, so why not make it a positive experience? We brainstorm how we can adjust our thinking to make it better (instead of “I suck at math” how about “I’m going to try my best and let that be enough”).
- Homework stinks- We discuss how homework prepares us for the grown up task of doing things you don’t want to do. If we spent our whole childhood doing only what felt good, adulthood would come as a crazy shock. I tell kids all the time that I love my job so much and am so lucky to do it every day, but I HATE writing session notes. Unfortunately, that is a legal and ethical requirement of my job. Doing homework, classwork, or subjects they don’t like is preparation for moments like these. It gets us ready for real life!
- Developing peer group within school and sports- this can help children feel supported
- Stay in contact with teachers and important school staff if needed
- Teach Empathy and giving back– emphasize this with your child and if possible within friend groups. This is a great general coping skills to increase connectedness withing friend groups, schools, and communities. When our children are more empathetic they are more emotionally attuned to themselves and to one another. Making the school environment a better place for everyone!
Extracurricular activities may be helpful as well. Getting kids involved with new activities after school sports teams or a hobby class like art class may help with mental health.
Hopefully these tips make back to school a bit easier for your family! Keep an eye on your child’s behavior and if you and your child are still struggling and need additional help, try reaching out to the child’s teacher and/or get professional help. Sending you all wishes for an easy fall and a fruitful school year!
Additional Parent Resources:
How to Connect With Your Middle Schooler: Tips for Parents
The Effects of Social Media on Tweens and Teens: What Parents Need to Know
How to Teach Deep Breathing Exercises to Kids
How to Foster Self-Esteem in Children and Teenagers
30+ Fun Screen time-Free Activities To Entertain The Kids All Summer
Abby Withee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Rolling Hills Estates and Redondo Beach. With a focus on mindful practices, Abby works with children, adolescents, adults, and families to address a variety of diagnoses and presenting issues. For more resources, check out her blog!