Back-to-School Tips for Anxious Kids (and Parents)

Back-to-School Tips for Anxious Kids (and Parents)

As the end of Summer quickly approaches, both kids and parents are anticipating the next transition of back-to-school. This can be a stressful time for both kids and their families.

If your child is anxious  leading up to the start of school, these tips can help.

Start Transitioning from Summer Vacation Mode to School Mode

Ease into schedules changes and increased responsibility a few weeks before school begins.

  • Practice morning and evening routines. This includes school wake-up times, bed-times and meal times.
  • Prepare ahead of time for logistics such as school supplies, transportation, and class schedules.
  • Give choices. This helps encourage a sense of excitement in addition to feeling in control. Choices might include what to wear on the first day, what to pack in a school lunch, or what to have for dinner the night before.

Communicate about the Transition

It’s normal to want to enjoy the final days of Summer and avoid the stressful topic of back-to-school. But, this strategy will back fire when the first day rolls around. It’s better to start talking about the transition a few days or weeks in advance. Here are some suggestions:

  • Find a time when both you and your child are calm.
  • You might say, “Let’s think of ways to make going back to school easier for you.” For example: make a special lunch, or meet at a designated pick up place, or visit the classroom ahead of time (if possible).
  • If your child is anxious, you might ask “What part of the day are you feeling worried about?” Kids will often say things in “all or nothing” terms like “I don’t like school.” Asking what parts of the day make them feel stressed can help narrow down their concerns and as a result can help parents and kids problem solve together.

Model and Practice Coping Strategies

One of the best ways to teach children how to deal with anxiety is to show them how you deal with it yourself. Practicing deep breathing, positive coping statements, and visualization strategies with your child is a very effective way to help them learn. You can role play the part(s) of the day they are feeling worried about after you have talked to them about their fears.

If after several weeks, your child is still struggling with anxiety related to school, it may be time to speak to a professional. Consulting a mental health professional who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help both the parent and child understand symptoms and develop a plan to solve problems.