Feeling some anxiety at the start of a new school year is entirely normal.
This is especially true for children starting school for the first time, or for children and teens who are starting at a new school.
But even if your child is simply starting the next grade at the same school, the back to school period is still a time of transition and adjustment.
Of course, while feeling anxiety at the start of a new school year is normal, that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. Children are resilient, but they still need your support. So in this article, we look at some simple strategies for tackling back to school anxiety that will help smooth the transition for your child.
Ease Back Into the School Routine
While you mightn’t be able to set up a classroom at home, there are some things you can do to help your child ease back into the school routine. By helping them to ease back into this routine, you’ll be limiting the number of changes and transitions they’ll need to adjust to on the first few days back. And the fewer changes and transitions they need to deal with, the less stressful starting back at school will be.
Consider the following easy-to-implement strategies for easing back into the school routine:
- Re-establish bedtime and mealtime routines a week or more before school starts
- Limit TV time and replace it with learning activities such as reading, flash cards, or puzzles
- For younger children, consider practicing going to school so they become familiar and comfortable with the route and transport mode
Address Specific Anxieties
Your child is bound to experience specific worries and anxieties about going back to school. These can range from worries about who their new teacher and classmates will be, to anxieties about fitting in, fears about what will be required of them, and everything in between. Helping your child address their specific anxieties about returning to school will help them to feel more settled.
The following strategies can all help to curb back to school anxiety:
- Tell your child that it’s normal to feel worried about starting school
- Invite your child to share their worries with you, and listen to them carefully
- Help your child to develop strategies to address the situations they’re worried about (e.g. “if you missed the bus, what could you do?”)
- Role play worrying situations with your child and demonstrate ways to deal with them
- Children are affected by their parents’ cues, so ensure that your own behaviour doesn’t communicate anxiety
Reduce Your Own Stressors
The back to school period can be an unsettling time for all the members in the family – including you. Even if you’re quite comfortable with sending your child back to school, the logistics of planning for school and getting back into the school routine can be stressful in their own right. By reducing the stressors that affect you, you can ensure that you’re better able to be there for your child and offer them the support they need.
The following ideas may help you make the back to school period easier for yourself:
- Pre-prepare and freeze dinners for the first week of school so you don’t have to worry about meal preparation and planning
- Make school lunches the night before so you don’t have to worry about them during the morning rush
- Set your own alarm clock earlier to leave extra time in the morning for the first week or two of school
- Be organised – don’t wait until the last minute to shop for school uniforms and supplies
- Make lists of what to pack each day so you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything
The strategies we’ve discussed should help deal with normal levels of back to school anxiety. However, if serious concerns still arise, it may be time to get professional help. At BayPsych, we have a number of qualified child psychologists who know how to help children deal with back to school anxiety and other school-related problems. If you feel your child would benefit from professional help, contact us today.
A Smoother Transition
Going back to school can be a stressful time for children and parents alike.
But with these strategies, you can help ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
And if the first week or two are still stressful? Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that back to school anxiety is normal, and it will pass.