The start to school is a major transition.  Not just for the kids returning to school, but also for their families.  This transition brings about a change in routine, or maybe the re-emergence of routine after the carefree schedule-less days of summer.  Change can often be a good thing, but it’s also often a source of stress.  Even kids who love school experience this stress.  And for some, this stress can be a quite severe form of anxiety.  The anxiety may come from separation from parents or not wanting to be around so many people at school.  The anxiety may come from needing to complete assignments, deadlines, or wanting to get good grades.  The anxiety may come from bullying or wanting to fit in.  Whatever the source, there are some strategies to help prepare your child, and your family, to be at their best and ready to take on the stress and navigate the change.

Here are a few of those strategies:

  • Remember that back-to-school worries are common and normal. Normalize this for your child, and for yourself.  Allow space for your child to share their worries with you and validate that it’s ok to be anxious.  Help them verbalize their concerns and also identify individuals that they can talk to when they have problems or get upset.
  • Do not allow your child to skip school due to anxiety as this will only reinforce the anxious feelings. Instead problem-solve ways to cope with the anxiety or handle potentially difficult situations that they may be worrying about.
  • Plan and prepare. Have your child help pick out their clothes and supplies ahead of time.  Go visit the school or classroom prior to the first day of school.  Discuss what the new schedule will be (and stick with it!).  Enforce bedtimes that allow for plenty of sleep and waking times that allow for plenty of time to get ready without rushing.

Allow time for your family to settle into a new rhythm and routine.  If anxiety persists or you feel you need extra support to manage the change, please reach out to a mental health professional for further help.

Teresa Rice
Supervisor of Child and Adolescent Clinical Services