How to Deal With Back to School Anxiety

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As a mother of three school-aged boys that have autism, ADHD, and sensory issues, I understand first-hand back to school anxiety. When this time of year rolls around, our children can easily find themselves feeling overwhelmed and anxious. The constant demands of homework, structured classroom time, and making new friends can create nervousness and uncertainty. This can leave your child feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, and exhausted. Does this sound familiar?

Close-up of Girl Covering Face

Have you ever tried to calm your child’s anxious mind the night before the first day of school?  If you have tried, you probably know first-hand how difficult this can be for some children.

So what can you do? After doing some research and using my own strategies that I carry out in my children’s lives, I discovered that many parents have found success using similar strategies. This post will tell you what you need to know how to reduce back to school anxiety for your child.

Close-up of Woman Working

What Are Some Common Back To School Worries?

Children and teens who are anxious tend to worry about the following:

  • Who will be my teacher? Some children have several teachers. For example, my two children who attend elementary school have a home room teacher, gym teacher, music teacher, and a French teacher. My eldest son has even more teachers at the high school level.
  • What if my new teachers are not nice? I know from experience, my children often discuss who the most strict teachers are at the school.
  • Will I have any friends in my class? What happens if I don’t fit in?
  • What will I wear on the first day of school?
  • Who will I hang out with at lunch and recess? What if I am standing alone?
  • What if school is too hard?
  • What if I get bullied on the bus?
back, bus, education

These are just a few examples of some common worries. So what can you do to help your child? The next section will explore this.

How To Deal With Back-to-School Anxiety

In this section, general strategies will be explored how to deal with back to school anxiety.

Implement a Routine- A week or two before school starts, make sure your child wakes up at the same time every morning and goes to bed at the same time. My own children thrive with routine and predictability. Make sure your child is also eating healthy meals and snacks.

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Talk About What is making Your Child feel Anxious- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! This is my most important strategy. Validate your child’s concerns, let them know that it is ok to have these feelings.

adorable, adult, boys

Role Playing- My younger boys love role-playing. When something is bothering them at school, I role play with them to teach them how to deal with a tough situation. This empowers them, calms them, and reduces their anxiety.

adult, black-and-white, books

Stay Positive- Before going back to school, ask your child to name two or three things that they love about school. This can be a difficult task, especially if they are anxious. You can suggest playing with a friend at recess, and learning new things.

Girls on Desk Looking at Notebook

Visit the School- If this is an option, visit the school before school starts. For example,  you can rehearse the drop-off and spend time on the playground or inside the classroom with your child. If it is not an option to go indoors, simply allow your child to stand outside the school, or play on the playground.

chairs, classroom, college

Breathing Exercises- An excellent coping strategy is breathing exercises. I have taught my boys to take ten deep breaths when they are feeling anxious. They can use this strategy anytime or anywhere when feeling nervous.

beach, calm, dawn

Important, John Hopkins Children’s Center  states: “If a child’s anxiety is causing a great deal of distress in her or his daily life, or if getting along with family members or friends becomes difficult, normal activities in and outside of school are avoided, or there are physical symptoms like stomachaches or fatigue, these ‘red flags’ indicate that the child’s anxiety should be evaluated by a child psychologist or psychiatrist,” says Keeton”.

Disclaimer: If none of these strategies are working for you, and you are not feeling any better, please consult with a medical professional. This article does not replace a visit with your doctor.

What strategies are you using to help reduce back to school anxiety? What is working? Not working?

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