Easing Back-to-School Anxiety: Tips for a Successful Transition

by | Jul 26, 2023

Dr. Stephanie Larsen

Clinical Pyschologist at Healthy Minds Pyschology Group

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As summer slowly comes to a close, a mix of emotions fill households. While some parents eagerly anticipate sending their kids back to school, and some kids look forward to reuniting with friends and teachers, this time of year can also be met with anxiety and frustration. Common anxiety may manifest in physical complaints such as tummy aches, headaches, and GI problems. You may notice your child or teen become more agitated or non-compliant as the school year rapidly approaches. Other children may revert backwards and demonstrate an uptick in separation anxiety. While others may be running down a laundry list of the negatives of school and potential negative events. Any way your child dishes it out here are some helpful tips for transitioning to a great school year!

  1. Listen and Validate
    • The first step in addressing back-to-school anxiety is to genuinely listen to your child’s concerns; this might seem like the most obvious step but it can also be the most difficult! Validate their feelings and fears without trying to immediately fix the situation. By showing empathy and understanding you create a supportive environment where your child feels comfortable expressing their emotions.
  2. Collaboratively Problem Solve
    • Identify specific anxiety triggers and work together with your child to find solutions. By involving them in problem-solving, you empower them to feel more independent and confident in handling challenges. Building these skills will ultimately contribute to their success in school and beyond.
  3. Get into a Routine EARLY
    • Ease your child back into a school routine at least a week before classes begin. Gradually reintroduce early mornings and consistent evening schedules. This may include laying out clothes the night before, getting up at the same hours as school, and completing evening routines. For children with high anxiety, practice the school routine in detail, including potentially driving to the school and discussing drop-off scenarios. Remind them of positive and familiar experiences from the past to build reassurance.
  4. Give Your Child Choices and Make it Fun
    • Empower your child by allowing them to make choices related to the upcoming school year. Let them pick their outfit for the first day or a favorite accessory if they have a uniform. Plan a special breakfast and dinner menu. Consider positive reinforcements for getting through the initial jitters, such as a treat at a coffee shop on the first day or a fun weekend activity. Having something that excites them will help them manage their anxiety. (TIP: Our brains have trouble identifying the difference between anxiety and excitement, if we can have something to be excited about there’s a high chance anxiety is relabeled as symptoms attributed to the exciting event!)
  5. Provide Confidence Boosts!
    • Help your child focus on their positive personality traits. Encourage them to verbalize their strengths, like being a good friend, a flexible problem solver, or a strong and fearless individual. Reinforcing these qualities helps them feel stable in an unpredictable world.
  6. Watch Your Own Anxiety
    •  Children often model their behavior after their parents. Be mindful of how you manage your own anxiety, especially when it comes to your child’s back-to-school worries. Demonstrate confidence and offer support, but if you have concerns, seek help privately to maintain a positive outlook for your child. Show them healthy coping skills and positive self-talk through your actions and anxiety management.
  7. Seek Help
    • If your child’s anxiety becomes overwhelming or begins to interfere with their daily life, consider seeking professional counseling. Many professionals are available to provide support and help your child build the necessary skills to manage anxiety effectively. Additionally, work with your child’s school to identify potential support systems, such as a desired teacher hand-off or a gradual transition plan. School officials can also assist in creating a 504 school plan if necessary.

As the upcoming school year approaches, it’s essential to address and manage back-to-school anxiety effectively. By listening to your child, collaborating on solutions, establishing routines, and providing confidence boosts, you can make the transition smoother and more successful. Remember, seeking help from professionals or the school when needed is a proactive step towards supporting your child’s well-being and academic success.

For more valuable tips and tricks on promoting healthy minds and managing anxiety, we invite you to explore our blog at www.healthymindspsych.com. Our blog is filled with insightful articles and resources to help your family thrive.

Stay connected with us on social media for daily inspiration and updates. Join Healthy Minds Psychology Group’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HealthyMindsPsychologyGroup, for a supportive community, or follow Dr. Stephanie Larsen on Instagram (@Dr_Stephanie_Larsen) for expert insights and engaging content.