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Is Your Child Suffering from Back-to-School Anxiety? Here’s How to Help

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

young kids at school
Photo by CDC on Unsplash.

It’s been nearly a month since we said goodbye to summer (although not to the heat!) and hello to the classroom. As with any time of transition, the back-to-school season is often marked by anxiety. While it’s normal to feel nervous about a new teacher, the change in daily routine, impending homework, and social interactions, it’s important that the anxiety eases after an adjustment period.

In today’s blog post, I want to offer some help if your child is still struggling with back-to-school anxiety. I also want to share some tips to help lessen the stress often brought by transitions.

Are you concerned that your child’s back-to-school anxiety is lingering or even worsening?

If your kid is still in distress, look out for the red flags below.

  • Continual tantrums at drop-off

  • Difficulty getting along with family and friends

  • Avoidance of activities both during and after school, including schoolwork and sports practice

  • Trouble sleeping alone

  • Symptoms like stomach aches or fatigue (“Mom, I’m too tired to go to school.”)

These signs may indicate that your child is in need of extra help. To start, talk to your child’s teacher and/or school counselor. They might recommend breathing exercises or sensory toys, like a stress ball, liquid bubble timer or fidget popper. If you (the parent) wants additional support, reach out to a mental health professional who can work with you to ease your own stress and determine next steps.

Transitions are a natural part of life. With that thought in mind, here are three tips to help ease the anxiety that often comes with them.

1. Practice the new routine.

The challenge of transitions is often because of a change in routine. For instance, with summertime comes freedom! It can be hard to adjust to an earlier bedtime and more organized day. If possible, a few weeks before a change in schedule, start incorporating pieces of the new routine. Slowly adding in new habits – like reading time each afternoon – will help your child adapt.

2. Remind your child that it’s okay to feel nervous.

As a parent, part of your job is to validate your child’s feelings. Allow them to express their emotions. Don’t belittle their fear or anxiety. Instead, acknowledge that starting something new is hard. Connect with them by sharing a time when you felt nervous, like the first day of a new job.

3. Adopt a new tradition or create a reward system or sticker chart.

If your child really struggles with changes to routine, ease the transition with a small treat. For many kids, a little encouragement goes a long way! For instance, when it comes to school, take them out for after-school ice cream dates at the end of each week or buy them a new keychain for their backpack after 10 days of smooth drop-offs.

Remember that any transition can be difficult for both kids and parents. Be patient with your child (and yourself!) as you embark on this new season.

Reach out to Dr. Kelli Malkasian, PsyD, CEDS at Coral Reef Counseling, and schedule a free consultation or telehealth appointment today.


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