Helpful Tools for Coping with Back to School Anxiety

Ideas to help your child ease back to school

By Jennifer Green July 17, 2023
It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of year again, and we’re talking about s-c-h-o-o-l! For some kids it’s a happy and exciting time. They get to be reunited with their friends and they get to move up a grade and be “bigger” kids. But for some children, back to school time is fraught with anxiety. They’re plagued by all kinds of fears that range from concerns about their new teachers, to whether or not they’ll fit in, or what will happen if they don’t understand their lessons.

In the weeks leading up to school, you may notice some behavior changes in your child. They may become more withdrawn or irritable, or they may cling to you more than usual. Their stress may manifest physically in the form of headaches, an upset tummy, or changes in appetite.

Coping with Back to School Anxiety

It’s vitally important not to let your anxious child miss school because of their fears, because doing so only reinforces their anxieties. They can also fall behind on school work and miss out on important opportunities for interacting with friends, teachers and classmates.
If you think your child may be fearful of the first day back, keep the following strategies in mind: 
  • Make sure they eat and sleep regularly. It’s hard enough to remember to do this when we as adults are stressed, but it’s even harder for kids, so be sure they stick to a regular bedtime, and if they shun full meals, be sure to provide healthy snacks throughout the day to keep them going.
  • Talk it out. Before their first day back, set aside some time to ask them what worries them, and to reassure them that it’s completely normal to feel anxious. If they reveal that they’re worried about bad things happening, avoid the temptation to tell them that “Nothing bad will happen!” or “Everything will be just fine!” Instead, help them think of some ways they could handle these potential negative situations. This will empower them to feel a bit more in control should the unexpected happen. 
  • Accentuate the positive! Help your child take their focus off their fears and instead, get them to think about the things they look forward to about school. Are they excited to see a particular friend, or learn a new subject? It doesn’t have to be a big thing either. It can be something as simple as enjoying recess or having pizza on Fridays.
  • If there’s a particular situation your child is anxious about dealing with such as a new teacher, or a mean classmate, it might be worth engaging in some role-playing to help boost your child’s confidence. By demonstrating acceptable, positive responses, the situation becomes a lot less scary for them.
  • Encourage them to talk to their teachers / school counselor. You can also reach out and give them a heads up, especially if your don't think your child will ask for help they can help check in on them.

This previously published article was updated July 17, 202 by Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas