Helping your child with back-to-school anxiety

The back-to-school season is in full swing. And while some parents may be happy that they’ve now got a bit of extra spare time and they don’t have to worry about childcare costs, many children are feeling anxious about returning to the classroom. 

Any child can be apprehensive about going back to school, whether they’re a straight-A student with loads of friends or they’re struggling with their studies and finding it difficult to connect with others.

Try and remember what it was like when you had to go back to school after weeks of lazy sunshine-filled days doing whatever you pleased. Making the transition from what feels like total freedom to a strict schedule can feel overwhelming and very unwelcome. 

So your child doesn’t get too stressed or blue about returning to school, follow our tips to help them ease into their school routine and banish any anxiety. If you are worried about anxiety, these are some healthy ways to help you distract yourself.

Elementary school

The best way of helping your child overcome anxiety if they’re going into elementary school is to talk about school as much as possible with them.

If this is their first year in education, share the stories that you remember from your elementary school years. Focus on how kind the teachers were, the great friends you made, the fun activities you got to enjoy, and all the wonderful things you learned. This will help them feel excited about everything that is to come.

If your child is returning to elementary school this year, encourage them to share their memories of their previous year/s in school. This will help remind them of all the positive things about school that they can look forward to.

Another idea is to contact their teacher and ask if they’re available for a quick meet-up or video call. Many young children are worried about what their new teacher will be like. If your child has the chance to talk to them briefly before their first class, they’ll discover that they’ve got nothing to be anxious about.

The long term effects of anxiety can be serious >>

Middle school

Moving from elementary school to middle school is a big deal. Most children will be worried about losing the close friendships they developed in elementary school and anxious about what the new, older kids will be like in middle school. It’s important you provide them with extra support during this challenging time in their lives.

Encourage your child to make plans with their friends who are moving to middle school with them. This will help give them something to look forward to and feel part of a group instead of on their own.

Ask if they’ve got specific questions about starting middle school and do your best to find answers. If your child wants to know if they’ll share classes with any of their friends or where they’re meant to go on their first day, send an email to the school and ask.

By arming your child with the knowledge they need, you remove the unknowns and help them feel more secure and safe.

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High school

While kids going into high school may seem more mature and relaxed than their elementary and middle school equivalents, they can still become anxious about returning to school

Encourage them to get in touch with their school and ask if there are any textbooks they can borrow, download, or purchase before the term begins. This way they can browse through the content and get to grips with it before the other students, putting them in a comfortable position.

So they don’t feel like they’re all alone, it’s a good idea for them to stay in touch with close friends who are attending other high schools. If they’re anxious about contacting them because they don’t know what to say, suggest that they talk about the things they have in common, such as starting a new chapter of their lives, a hobby they’ve always enjoyed together, or just the feeling of being fed up that it’s school time again.

Even if your child and their friend live in different cities or states, it’s still important to stay in touch so they can both feel like they’ve got a real connection with at least one other person their age. If they can’t meet in person, they can message each other online or keep in touch via video chats. 

Encourage them to do something together — however big or small it is. They could learn a new language together and practice different styles of art or simply watch Netflix shows and play video games together. As long as your child is connecting with someone else, they won’t feel pressured to have forced conversations and their anxiety levels will significantly drop.

When to seek professional help

It can be difficult to talk to a child or young person about their worries. Getting your child to open up about their anxieties is a huge step and opens the way for you to help them.

Start by picking a suitable time when they’re not emotional and there are few distractions. Explain that anxiety is something that everyone deals with and every worry they have is important and valid. Let them know that you want to support and help them.

Ensure them that anxiety is manageable and treatable. A lot of young people experience anxiety during big changes in their lives, such as returning to school. This can often make it difficult to stay in touch with their friends and get good grades. 

If your child has been struggling with these feelings for some time and their symptoms are not improving or are getting worse, suggest they speak with a therapist. We have many Cyti therapists who are trained at helping children and teenagers determine the cause of their anxiety and develop the skills they need to manage their symptoms and improve their lives.

Make your child their first therapy appointment today and help them enjoy their school years without anxiety or worry. 

About the author: Shiva Amin

Shiva is a licensed clinical psychologist providing telehealth services in California. She mostly sees clients who are struggling with anxiety, depression, work stress, relationship issues, and adjustment issues. She uses an evidence based treatment approach such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution Focused Therapy. Her goal is to provide each client a safe place to talk about their concerns, while exploring different perspectives and options in managing their difficulties.

Read more about Shiva here >>

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741