As we approach the end of August, many kids are going back to school in the upcoming weeks, if they haven’t already started. Returning to school is exciting for some children and nerve-wracking for others. Many kids feel a sense of anxiety as the new school year approaches. Help your child combat their back-to-school anxiety by making a few lifestyle adjustments as you approach the new year.
Back-to-school anxiety is common for children and caregivers.
Starting a new school year can be a difficult adjustment for parents and children alike. Kids might be nervous about starting school for the first time, attending a new school, transitioning from online studies back to the classroom, or just being away from their parents after a long summer of being at home. Parents can feel equally nervous about the new daily routine, how their child will adjust, and how the new school year will play out.
Going back to school can be an exciting time, but also a difficult time for a child. As you transition back to going to school, help your child overcome back-to-school anxiety by following these simple techniques.
Step 1: Choose a program or school that you feel confident in.
You know your child best – feel confidence in your choice.
Want to make your child’s first day of school a great one? Be sure to choose a program or school that you feel confident in! If you hesitate on whether or not your child is going to flourish at this particular school, your child may feed off of those feelings of hesitancy and feel more nervous about the transition when school starts.
A parent’s anxiety can trickle down and exacerbate a child’s anxiety. Research schools and programs ahead of time, choose one that you believe will be a great fit for your child and your family, talk yourself through the process, and try your best to put your worries aside and feel confidence in your decision. Show up on the first day with an optimistic spirit, knowing you’ve done your absolute best as a parent – and that’s all you can do.
Step 2: Prepare your child as much as possible.
Give your child the knowledge and skills to have a great start to the year.
Kids can feel anxiety when they feel out of control and don’t know what to expect. Parents should prepare their kids with as much information as possible as they transition back to school. Talk to your child about what a normal school day looks like, go through specifics of drop off and pick up, address your child’s worries, meet your child’s teacher, connect with other students and families at the school ahead of time, listen to your child’s concerns, and encourage them to have fun.
A child might feel anxious when starting at a new school, new program, or even just a new classroom. Parents can be a positive example by walking their children through what a typical day at school will look like. Details like classroom location, teacher background, how to make friends, a normal schedule, class rules, riding the school bus, and what the school’s lunch menu looks like can be some topics of conversation.
If you can, visit the school in person before the first day of school. Your child will have an easier time coping if he or she knows what to expect. The first day can be hectic and stressful, so visit the campus on a typical, stress-free day with no expectations. Allow your child to have time to get comfortable in the new environment. Just talking with your child about his or her concerns and worries can be a great way to cope with feelings of anxiety.
Step 3: Welcome your child’s feelings.
Worry and anxiety are normal – prioritize your child’s mental health.
Welcome your child’s feelings, whatever they are. Kids might have mixed feelings about going back to school or starting school for the first time. As the loving caregiver, hold space for your child’s feelings. Worries, anxiety, nerves, and anticipation are just some of the emotions your children might feel before going back to school.
Help your child’s anxiety by welcoming their feelings. Help them feel comfortable talking to you about what is bothering them. An anxious child can often be calmed by a warm, friendly, positive caregiver in their life.
Step 4: Prepare yourself for roadblocks.
Transitions are hard for children in general. Going back to school is no different.
Parents should aim to have confidence in their children as they approach the new situation. If the parent has doubts, children will sense that and this can worsen feelings of separation anxiety. Parents must aim to be courageous in these situations, and teach their children how to approach new situations with confidence in their own capabilities.
When easing your child back into the school routine, give your child the facts and don’t try to “sell” them on the idea that school is going to be this amazing place where nothing difficult ever happens. Children can sense a parent’s hesitancy and question why the parent is trying to convince them of something. Children know the difference between when a parent is being straightforward or not.
Talk to your child about why you’ve chosen that particular school, talk about the daily schedule, and give them some talking points on potential feelings and worries. If you as the parent are not comfortable, the child will not be comfortable.
Step 5: Analyze your child’s readiness.
At the preschool level, how do parents know if their child is ready for school?
If you’re concerned about your child’s readiness for their first day of school, let the child attend the school for several weeks and then ask yourself these questions:
What happens when the child is at school?
Can they focus in the school environment?
Does the child connect with other kids?
How quickly does the child settle in to the new routine?
How are they adapting to the classroom?
When is the “right” time to send a child to school?
Starting school is a challenge for most kids, especially at the preschool level. Young children might have a greater degree of separation anxiety when it comes to parting with parents and caregivers. Drop-off time can be especially stressful with little ones. Remember, your level of anxiety transfers over to your child, so remain calm and confident as much as you can. Trust your child’s teachers to alert you with any problems or concerns about your little one’s readiness to start school.
Sometimes there is no “right time” to start school. The transition from being at home to going to school will always be difficult, no matter how ready your child seems. The best thing parents can do is build trust with their child and allow the child to feel whatever emotions they feel.
Step 6: Trust the process.
Things won’t always be easy; but they also won’t always be hard.
When roadblocks occur, trust the process and acknowledge your child’s feelings. As school starts, there will be bumps in the road. Assure your child that you’ll be thinking of them throughout the day and will look forward to seeing them after the school day is over.
Be clear about the daily schedule and the school experience. Accept that separation anxiety might be factor as the school year begins, and that your child’s mental health might go through ups and downs upon returning to school, especially during covid times.
Do not show hesitation. Trust your child’s abilities, even when it seems tough. Talk your child through hard feelings and situations, and accept that your child might feel anxious for some time. Kids are resilient and often adjust more quickly than we expect. Eventually, that anxiety will fade your child will feel ready and equipped to have a successful school year.
In the end, your kids will be okay.
The start to the school year might be a bumpy road full of anxiety and worry. Transitions are hard; separations are often messy. Parents can act as a positive support for their child as the new school year begins. Set your child up for success by preparing them as much as you can, accepting their feelings with a welcoming spirit, and giving them the confidence and skills they need to have a great beginning of the school year.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.