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4 Tips on How to Address Back-to-School Anxiety

4 Tips on How to Address Back-to-School Anxiety
JuLY 20TH, 2022
Girls doing crafts on a lawn
Summer is a time for kids to relax and unwind, with less structure than they’re used to throughout the school year. And while the summer months are filled with relaxation (and maybe even some boredom), back-to-school anxiety can happen in any child. Often, as the school year progresses, this anxiety fades, but setting your girls up for success from the beginning can benefit them the entire year.

First, it’s important to check in with yourself. Are you anxious for your child to start school? Maybe it’s a big transition from preschool to kindergarten or from elementary school to middle school. Big transitions can cause anxiety in caregivers, too. Children can intuit our emotions and sense when their parents or caregivers are anxious, which can fuel unintended anxiety in them.

So if you’ve got an anxious little one, here are some helpful tips that can support them through navigating their back-to-school anxiety.

Start preparing a week or two in advance

Children thrive on routine. Having a predictable routine allows children to feel safe and secure. It allows them to explore their own creativity without worrying about what will happen next. If your child is experiencing some back-to-school anxiety, then try preparing them a week or two in advance for their new school routine.

This can include choosing clothes for the next day, sticking to a bedtime routine and time, and preparing before-school breakfasts. This way, when the day comes for your child to go back to school, they’ll have more familiarity with the new routine.

Plan a playdate with a school peer

Research shows that children who have familiar peers in school have an easier emotional adjustment to school transitions. Planning a playdate with a friend, or a new friend can help ease some of your child’s back-to-school anxiety.

If they are transitioning to a new school, plan dates with parents who have similar-aged children. Many neighborhoods, communities, and towns have groups where parents and caregivers can connect with each other.

Practice makes perfect

If it’s a new school transition, your school may offer a back-to-school night for parents and kids to meet and familiarize themselves with the new school. While this may help ease your anxiety, back-to-school nights may not address a child’s anxiety.

If the school allows it, ask if you can practice dropping off your child. Or visit the school each day and talk about what they’re excited about for the new school year. Help them practice by telling them exactly what they’ll do when they start the school year so they know what to expect.

Validate their feelings

It’s easy for parents and caregivers to try to “fix” their child’s problems. Saying things like “don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” ignores the child’s feelings and communicates that their fears are silly. This can sometimes have the opposite effect for us–compounding a kid’s anxiety.

Instead, validate their feelings. “I know it’s scary to go back to school, and remember you’re very brave.” By validating their feelings, they’ll understand that their emotions are completely normal, and reminding her that she’s brave can help her navigate those feelings of fear and anxiety.

More resources to address back-to-school anxiety

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