Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety
By: Andre Amaro, MA
Summer is coming to an end and it is that time of the year again for children and teens to return to school. Going back to school can be an exciting time for many kids; however, for some it poses a significant amount of stress and anxiety, and adjusting back to a regular school schedule can be challenging. As we begin the new school year, it is important that we help our children and teens navigate any stress and anxiety that they may be currently experiencing and help them cope with it in healthier ways in order to prevent further issues down the line.
There are many reasons why children and teens start to develop and struggle with back-to-school anxiety. Some examples are because they worry about who their new teachers will be, how they will be like, and what students are going to be in their classes. They might also worry about how difficult or challenging their classes might be and thinking about the amount of school work that they will have to do. Then there is the transition back to sleeping earlier so that they can wake up on time for school, which can be very difficult trying to adjust to at first. Some other reasons for the development of back-to-school anxiety are worrying about issues such as bullying, teasing, and the possibility of having trouble making new friends or fitting in with the other kids at
school. These issues are fairly common for the development of back-to-school anxiety, however there are definitely some things that we can do to help children and teens manage their symptoms. I will provide some tips for parents and caregivers on how they can help their children and teens navigate their back-to-school anxiety as they begin the new school year.
A good way to start helping your child manage back-to-school anxiety is by first helping them develop a daily routine for themselves, as taking care of the basics is essential when going back to school. Examples are helping them identify a time when they should go to bed every night in order to make sure they get enough sleep for school, while also identifying a time when they should be up in the morning so that they are not late. Other things to consider in their routine are making sure they incorporate time eat their meals throughout the day, time for homework, chores, personal hygiene, and anything else that may be important for that specific child or teen such as preparing for extracurricular activities or sports. Another way to help them reduce their
anxiety is by listening to their fears and worries, while also being able to validate them and provide empathy. It is important to listen to kids as they express their fears and worries and not to dismiss them, as this can make things worse for them when going back to school. Sometimes all that a child may need is talk it out with someone as this can help them work through their negative emotions. Praising and modeling good behaviors is also very important. Sometimes children who are anxious may throw tantrums, become angry or irritable, and may even refuse to go to school. Praising them whenever they are able to calm themselves down and showing them proper ways to behave can teach them the tools that they need to manage their anxiety. Examples you can model are deep breathing or relaxation exercises. Another way that you can help your child is by problem solving specific issues with them or reaching out to their school for extra support, which could be things like maybe having to reach out to their teacher or school counselor to discuss peer issues or health related concerns. Lastly, acknowledging and letting your child know that it is okay to be nervous about going back to school and reassuring them that it will get easier as time goes on is definitely very helpful for them. Providing words of encouragement and reminding them of their strengths as a student can also help alleviate some of their anxiety and increase their confidence.
If you are unsure if your child or teen may be struggling with back-to-school anxiety, some signs that that this may be the case is if your child is displaying constant fear and worry about school, having difficulty making new friends or even just socializing with peers, already having trouble paying attention and turning in assignments, refusing to go to school, and complaining of stomach issues or pains. If your child is struggling with back-to-school anxiety and you are having trouble trying to help them, please feel to reach out to me here at Inner Courage Counseling as I may be able to help them! Thank you for taking the time to read my post and hope everyone is having a good start to the new school year!