Back-to-School Anxiety

The transition to the new school year as summer ends can be a stressful time for both children and parents alike.  It can be especially challenging for kids starting in a new school, or with changing friendships or family dynamics. Some anxiety, shyness, and worry about schedules, schoolwork, or friends is natural during the back-to-school transition. For most kids, the worries will fade, but ongoing withdrawal or worries may signal a bigger problem. Please talk to your pediatrician if you think your child may need some extra help.

Here are some tips to help anxious kids have a successful transition into the new school year:

  1. Validate your child’s worry
    Tell your child that it is normal to have concerns. Acknowledge your child’s emotions and help them think through steps they might take to approach their worries. Build confidence in your child by reminding them about satisfying experiences in the past when their efforts led to success.
  2. Set reasonable expectations
    Reminding your child that learning new material takes time and effort will ease their academic tension. Children need to believe that it is okay to allow themselves to learn and fail. Avoid comparing your child to other students in the school. Instead, encourage comparisons to one’s own past performance.
  3. Model good behavior
    Children take cues from their parents, so try to keep your own anxieties in check.  The more confidence and comfort you can model, the more your child will understand there is no reason to be afraid. Be supportive, saying openly that you care about your child’s experiences and want to hear about the bad as well as the good.
  4. Ending the summer routine
    A week or two before school, start preparing children for the upcoming transition. Enforce a regular bedtime, select clothes and meals the night before, and have breakfast together as a family.
  5. Get together with friends
    Arrange play dates with one or more familiar peers before school starts. Remembering that they’re not alone will ease their worries and help them relax.
  6. Do a trial run
    Before the academic year begins, visit the school. Arrange to meet the teachers, see the classrooms, and explore the campus. Rehearse drop-off by having your child practice walking into class while you wait outside. Knowing where to go and what to do can ease a lot of anxiety right away. After practice runs, debrief with your child. Point out their successes and support your child in problem-solving around areas of difficulty.
Categories: Behavioral Health, School
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