But what if your child is anxious about going back to school? They just had a stress-free, sleep-in summer, and now you’re telling them they have to wake up early, get dressed before noon, AND do homework. Oh yea, and for those of us with older kids, navigate the fun that is figuring out who you are while going through puberty and trying to make friends.
For some kids, the sensory overload can be overwhelming and induce feelings of anxiety.
8 Ways to Manage Back to School Anxiety
In our house, it isn’t exactly all excitement about going back to school. Back to school season can bring on increased anxiety. So while my job isn’t to take that away or make it all better I have found a few small things that have helped us get ready to go back to school.
Find small things to look forward to
Does your kid like to pick out their school supplies? Maybe it’s a first day outfit they can get excited about. It’s helpful for my kids to focus on small things to get them excited about school.
Create opportunity for discussion
If you know back to school can bring on feelings of anxiety, making sure to leave space for conversation. Ask how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking about. One thing that is also helpful is to remind them [and myself] that while it doesn’t necessarily change how they feel, talking about it helps. Sometimes through discussion, they can identify what they can/can’t control and shift their focus on problem solving techniques.
Share your own story
If you had anxious feelings about school when you were younger, share them! This normalizes feeling anxious and can make your child feel less alone.
Validating any feelings your kids might have is so very important. Letting them know we hear and see them and understand where they’re coming from is helpful.
Ask for teacher/counselor support
For some kids, bringing on extra supports is necessary. I always wavered on whether I should talk to the teacher about the possibility of increased anxiety or see how things go. One thing I’ve found is that it’s always better to communicate early rather than respond later if something happens. Also, talking to the school counselor is an excellent resource for both you and your kid and can be a safe spot just in case.
Get a comfort object
This can look different depending on the age of your child. A comfort object could be a lovey or a family picture. For older kids, it might be something more symbolic and abstract. One year, my kids and I made matching bracelets before the school year started and they loved the idea we’d all wear them and could be reminded of each other throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be a physical object but more of a tradition or symbol that could also work.
Set a routine/schedule
Kids thrive on routines and schedules. The positive side to school is that for the most part, our kids follow a pretty set routine/schedule while they’re at school. Getting back into the swing of things can be an adjustment but it can also be a positive. Helping my kids get back into their school routines/schedules a few weeks before school can help with that adjustment period.
Give yourself and your child grace upon grace upon grace.
When I think back to my younger years [especially junior high years] I completely remember what it was like to go to a new school, meeting new people, etc. Truthfully, you couldn’t pay me to go back.I keep that in mind as I send my new middle schooler off and will try to remember she is doing the best she can and so am I.
Here’s to all the parents whose back to school prep might look a little different when it comes to parenting a more anxious child. You aren’t alone. And, here’s wishing a successful school year for all the kids and loved ones in their life!