Going back to school in the fall can be a difficult transition for most kids who have become adjusted to freedom of summer over the past few months. They might feel nervous about starting a new school year and dealing with new teachers, harder classes and a busy schedule. No matter what age, everyone experiences some type of anxiety about going back to school.
It can be very normal for children to feel worried about going back to school and it can even build up into tears, tantrums, trouble sleeping and other signs of anxiety. Kids can even have physical symptoms of anxiety such as stomach pains or headaches or emotional responses such as becoming withdrawn, irritable or angry. Even kids who are usually pretty easy going can have some of these symptoms in the weeks leading up to their first day at school.
Younger children such as early elementary students may experience separation anxiety from mom and dad. Certain transitions can be especially hard for students such as switching from preschool to kindergarten or for older kids, transitioning from elementary to middle school. Even as we grow up most people experience anxiety on their first days of high school and even their first days in college.
For parents it can be especially challenging to help kids cope with the changes they are going through and the worries that they have about a different environment at school. You might even have your own feelings of stress about getting back to your old routine and a busier schedule for your kids. To make the transition back into school go a little more smoothly you can find some coping methods for dealing with anxiety.
Listen to Your Child’s Worries
If your kid has certain issues about school that are bothering them, make sure to really pay attention to what’s going on in their mind. You might feel tempted to brush them off and say they are just back to school jitters but it is helpful for kids to be understood. You should make yourself available to talk and make sure you are not too busy to listen if they have concerns.
Your kid may have specific worries such as a having a new teacher, more homework, or not having their friend in a class with them. Don’t dismiss any of these fears and try your best to acknowledge the validity of what they feel so that they can be more secure. You can also try to give them some confidence by providing advice or strategies on how they can handle the situations that worry them.
If your child doesn’t naturally bring anything up about school but you suspect they are feeling anxiety then you can casually check in. Don’t ask them questions that imply they are anxious but instead ask about their classes or teachers and see what they talk about. They might open up and reveal some of their nervousness about the coming school year.
Strategies for Easing Anxiety
Once you find out what is bothering your child you can start to help them come up with solutions. Ask them what they think would make them feel better so that they can learn to solve issues on their own. You can help them by role playing some tough situations so that they can practice handling it.
If your kid is attending a new school then you can help them get adjusted by showing them the building, letting them walk down the halls and find their classroom, the cafeteria and the playground. You might even introduce them to their new teacher so that they know what to expect and will feel more comfortable in the environment. When kids are exposed to what will be their new routine it removes the element of the unknown that may be at the core of their anxiety.
If you think your child may have separation issues then talk to the teacher and other adults at the school asking them to keep an eye out. It can be helpful for teachers to know about certain issues with kids right away so that they can use the information in class. They might try to give your child more confidence or come up with their own strategies to help them feel more comfortable.
It is always a good idea to help your child feel prepared for school by getting them new supplies and making sure they have everything they need before the first day. Buying school supplies, new clothes or letting them pick out a new backpack can be a fun way to get them ready. Even older kids going to college benefit from having their parents help them buy stuff for their dorm room.
The key to dealing with back to school anxiety is simply providing whatever support your child needs to feel comfortable and ready to start the new school year.