Managing Back-to-School Anxiety

Malena Ally, Masters in Social Work, Associate Social Worker
School will be starting soon and this can cause a lot of anxiety for some kids. Some worrying is to be expected, but if you feel that your child is really stressed there are a few things

First of all, remember that everyone sees things differently and something that may not seem like a big deal to you (i.e. the first day of school) can be very upsetting or even traumatic to your child. Let your child know that you are listening and you understand. You can do this by validating their feelings or repeating back what they said: “It sounds like you are nervous about going back to school. You are worried that you won’t have friends in your class.”

Reassure your child that their feelings are normal and you have faith in them. Doing this in a calm and confident voice will help relieve some stress. If there is a skill that they don’t have (i.e. standing up to a bully) then assure them that you will help them develop that skill. If they do have the skills, but just lack the confidence, then you can point out past successes. You could say, “A lot of children feel nervous going back to school, but I know that you are very kind and make friends easily. I’m not worried about you making friends. I will be excited to hear about your first day and who is in your class!”

You can also help your child to problem solve. For example, if they are worried that they won’t have any friends, you might ask, “How do you make friends? How did you become friends with ____ and _____ last school year?” You could also ask, “What are some things that you could do to be friendly to a new student and help them?”

Lastly, keep if fun and positive! Show your excitement with your children in your back-to-school preparations or start a tradition that your child can look forward to every year. A fun tradition could be big or small: A back-to-school party after the first week of school or their favorite breakfast on the first day. The end goal is that children learn to cope with anxieties and develop confidence in themselves, so they know they can handle any new situation or stressor that will inevitably come their way.

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