Going back to school can be stressful for both children and parents, but there are ways to make the transition smoother for both of you. Although the stress of the shift back to school will typically pass within the first few weeks, it can feel overwhelming. Keep reading to learn some tips and tricks to help ease your child’s back-to-school anxiety.
Understanding Back-to-School Anxiety
Common Symptoms of Back-to-School Anxiety
Some of the most common symptoms of back-to-school anxiety include trouble sleeping, stomachaches, headaches, and a general feeling of nervousness.
Why Kids Experience Back-to-School Anxiety
Kids can experience back-to-school anxiety for a variety of reasons including separation anxiety, new environments, and social pressures. After being home with loved ones all summer. The idea of facing the ‘new and different’ can be very scary.
The Importance of Addressing Back-to-School Anxiety
If back-to-school anxiety is not addressed, it can lead to long-term stress and negatively impact academic performance.
Creating a Routine
Make a Schedule
Create a daily schedule that includes bedtime, wake-up time, meal times, and study time to help your child feel more in control and less stressed.
Stick to the Routine
Stick to the schedule even on weekends to help your child’s body adjust to a routine. Consistency is key to reducing anxiety. Yes, your child will protest having a weekend routine but it’s important to stand some ground here. They NEED consisent sleep and the right nutrients in their bodies to combat all the natural chemicals that can get created by anxiety. Without that, things can spiral a bit and your child (and you) can feel overwhelmed and out of control come school days.
Practice the Routine
Practice the routine a few days before the start of school to help your child get used to the schedule and feel more comfortable with the new routine.
Positive Talk and Encouragement
Listen to Them
Listen carefully to your child’s concerns and provide emotional support. Their worries don’t have to make sense to you, just understand that they are real to them.
Empathize with Them
Talk to your child about your own back-to-school experiences and how you used to cope with anxiety. You can even use examples of work experiences that are more recent.
Encourage your child to focus on the positives of going back to school, such as seeing friends or learning something new. Discuss it with excitement without downplaying how they feel.
Teaching Coping Strategies
Teaching your child coping strategies will not only help them get through the back-to-school period but also provide them with long-term tools for managing stress. There are so many to choose from but here is a few to start with. Our children’s department is also full of ideas an additional techniques and strategies. Check out our resource library or YouTube pages for some video options!
Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep Breathing Exercises are a simple yet effective way to calm the mind and reduce stress.
Yoga is a great way to help your child increase their flexibility, concentration, and relaxation. One of our favorite resources s the Cosmic Kids Yoga channel on YouTube. She does TONS of yoga routines to stories that your children know and like to make it fun.
Coloring books have been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation in children of all ages.
Communication with Teachers and Staff
Why Communication is Important
Informing teachers of your child’s anxiety can help them better understand how to support your child.
Working together with your child’s teachers can create a more positive atmosphere and overall experience for the child.
How to Communicate with Teachers
If possible, make a face-to-face meeting with the teacher before school starts to discuss your child’s anxiety. During the school year, make a phone appointment or send an email. Attend the school’s open house events as an additional way of reinforcing to your child that you are all on the same team.
Ask the teacher for suggestions on how to reduce anxiety and create a support system for your child within the classroom. If your school has a school-based counseling or wellness program don’t hesitate to take advantage of it! Our insurance-based Compass programs are available in Laurel, Mohawk, Shenango, and Wilmington school districts. And we have Wellness programs in Laurel and Shenango!
When to Seek Professional Help
Unusual or Severe Symptoms
If your child is experiencing severe anxiety or unusual symptoms such as panic attacks, throwing up from anxiety, or talking about harming themselves in some way, it may be time to seek professional help.
Please note that if your child is making self-harm statements it is ALWAYS better to over then under react.
Impacting Daily Life
If your child’s anxiety is impacting their daily life, such as their ability to attend school or participate in activities, it may be time to seek professional help. In these situations, there can be a ripple effect from not just the anxiety itself but also the missed opportunities and experiences their anxiety held them back from.
IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE ANYTHING YOU DO IS WORKING
If the techniques mentioned in this article are not working or you would just like to learn more tools to help both of you, it’s ok to seek additional help.
There are a lot of fantastic therapists and professionals out there who have a ton of experience with helping families. There is no shame in using those services to help your child.