Back to School Anxiety: Conquering a New School Year

Back To School Anxiety

Whether you’re dragging your feet or you’re jumping for joy, our kids are headed back to school again. With that comes a barrage of questions:

Who is my teacher?

Where is my locker?

Who will I eat lunch with?

What if I miss the bus?

Will I fit in?

Oftentimes, all of those unknowns lead to a great deal of anxiety. As much as we want to comfort our children and tell them it will be okay, for the anxiety-ridden kiddo, words don’t always resonate. So, we have to make sure that our actions mirror what we want their actions to be: confident, calm and comfortable.

Check out these 5 tips to ease your child into the new school year:

Maintain your own calm.

Back to school is not only stressful for kids, it’s stressful on parents too. I have taken part in 33 “first day of school” celebrations as a student, as a teacher, and now as a mom. So, trust me when I say, when you’re stressed, your kids are stressed. Make sure you have the things you need for the first few days in place. That way you can focus more on your child the first week of school. 

Plan ahead.

Before school starts, help familiarize your child with some of the unknowns about school. Registration day is a great time to do this! Help them find their locker, the restroom, the cafeteria, their classrooms, etc. Just knowing the lay of the land can greatly reduce stress and anxiety for new students. Unless your child has major food allergies, encourage them to eat hot lunch on the first day so they can get used to the ins and outs of the lunch line. If they pack cold lunch the first week to avoid the discomfort of the unknown, they may never want to try to eat hot lunch.  Their classmates will be old pros at navigating the lunch line by the end of the first week, causing your child even more anxiety.

Establish a routine.

Don’t wait for the first day to start a “new routine.” Coming off the summer is definitely hard. With sunny evenings, bedtimes extend later into the evening, and oftentimes, wake-ups are difficult. Start your back-to-school routine a week (or two) early. Set a school-year bedtime and stick to it. Most importantly, make sure your child is able to wake up at school time for a few days prior to the start of school. Encourage them to eat breakfast and get moving in the morning to help reprogram their body for the demands of the upcoming school year.

Problem solve and stay positive.

Don’t tell your child everything will be okay. Your child is intelligent enough to know that you can’t predict the future. Instead, acknowledge his or her concerns and help him or her problem solve and plan. Miss the bus? Walk her through the stepsshe would take to get home. Can’t find friends to sit with at lunch? Give him some tips on how to start up a conversation and make a new friend. Feel like everything is going wrong? Equip her with strategies on how to find the positives in the situation. By arming them with the tools to navigate anxious situations, your children are better equipped to keep their anxiety at bay.

Set them up for success.

There is nothing like a photo to add to the anxiety of a momentous day. Perhaps instead of adding to your children’s stress, plan to take your #FirstDayOfSchool pictures the day before. This will give your children a chance to go through their morning routine and you can take all of the pictures you want, knowing that you don’t have to rush to get your children to school on time. Then, the first day of school, if they have too many things on their mind to smile for a photo, it’s one less worry to add to their plate.

Keep in mind, even with the best of parenting, first-week jitters often cause many undesirable behaviors. Keep your cool and remember that nothing encourages poor behavior more than being tired and hungry.  (They will come home from school feeling both!) Make sure there are plenty of healthy snack options available so that a sugar rush doesn’t exacerbate their behaviors.

The first week back is hard for everyone. Maintain your calm and hopefully everyone will start the school-year off strong.

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