Back to School Anxiety

By: Fatima Khan-Ali, LMFT, MCAP

Backpacks, Binders and Folders, Oh MY! 

It’s that time of year again, the stores are stocked, the kiddos will leave home, and traffic will pick up just a bit, it’s BACK TO SCHOOL TIME. 

But what do we do with our students who say they don’t want to go back? The children that legitimately dread the first day of school. More importantly, when do we, as parents, take these statements seriously?

There are some signs to look out for physically, such as, inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, complaining of headaches or stomachaches without a medical reason, or crying or appearing scared when school is mentioned. 

Sometimes children with anxiety about going back to school ask A LOT of questions about school, almost to the point of obsessing about it. They may out right refuse to go to school or have tantrums.  

If you find that your child is struggling with returning to school, here are some ways you can help.

  1. Make sure your leading by example. Pay attention to your own feelings and language about the back to school topic. Make sure you paint the new school year in a positive, optimistic light, and not wrought with exceedingly high expectations or worry.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Drive by the school, show them where they will be entering/exiting from, if they walk home, show them the route and walk it with them. If there is an orientation day, make all efforts to attend with your child so that they can get inside and meet their teacher and see where their classroom is located. 
  3. Get Involved! Keep your child involved as much as possible in the preparations, picking out the clothes, the supplies, the lunch or snacks they will be taking with them. Make sure they have a good night’s rest and have a healthy breakfast. 
  4. Talk! Most importantly, give them a safe space to talk about their worries, fears, and concerns regarding school. Answer their questions to the best of you ability, and seek out the information you don’t know. Validate their feelings and offer support and comfort.

Good luck to all the teachers, students, and parents heading into this school year, you got this!


References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/teen-angst/201408/back-school-anxiety

https://childmind.org/article/back-school-anxiety/

https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/managing-feelings/stress-anxiety/signs-your-young-child-might-be-struggling-with-anxiety

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