Speech Buddies Parents’ Corner – Battling Back to School Anxiety
Every year as summer draws to a close and backpacks are dusted off and filled with new notebooks, there are many anxious students and parents preparing for the new school year. If someone in your home is experiencing back to school anxiety and worries, there are several steps you can take to ease those fears and make the most of the new year.
9 Ways to Reduce Back to School Anxiety
Keep your own worries at bay – Kids can read their parents better than books, so be careful about your own worries shining through for your kids to see. If they hear you talking with your friends about your worries about how Johnny will get along with his teacher, or how the new principle rubs you the wrong way, they will take those worries and pile them on top of their own concerns. Instead, talk about the positives of the school, the teachers, and even your own positive memories of school.
Get organized for back to school – Home organization will help reduce back to school anxiety for both you and your kids. Clean out a portion of the close for school clothes, help your child prepare his desk or study space at home, and set up some pantry space in the kitchen for school lunch supplies.
Help your child reconnect with friends – Summer-time fun doesn’t always include spending time with classmates. Help your child to feel reconnected with old friends by hosting a back to school breakfast, movie afternoon, or other opportunity for your child to get back into the groove of friendships with schoolmates.
Visit the school (more than once) – Most schools have a summer open house for families to come and visit and find classrooms and lockers. Take advantage of this, or if your school doesn’t offer this, check when staff will be in the building and see if you can take your own walk down the hallways. Helping your child find her classroom, the lunchroom, and the bathroom, will help ease some of worries of getting lost that are often behind back to school anxiety.
Take time to travel the school route – Whether your child will be walking to school, riding the bus, or carpooling, take some time during the summer to go over that route together. Make sure your child knows which door to enter, where to park his bike, or the name and face of his bus driver long before that first day when those nerves are already high.
Do some roleplaying – A lot of back to school anxiety comes from the unknown.
- What if no one sits with me at lunch?
- What if I don’t know anyone in my class?
- What if I don’t have anyone to play with at recess?
These kinds of questions can leave your child sleepless the night before. Calm those nerves by giving practical suggestions for these basic scenarios – teaching your child how to introduce himself and invite others to join him at the lunch table or playing a game during recess. Remind your child that there are probably going to be lots of kids who are nervous, too, so inviting them to sit together for lunch is a win-win.
Have a homework plan – This might include computer and television time limits, special tools for helping with homework such computer or tablet privileges with homework apps, and a time set aside for studying. Don’t forget to pencil in some downtime, too, because that can be just as important.
Get a routine going – The transition from summer to school schedules can sometimes be overwhelming for kids (and parents!). Start at least a week before the first day of school with a revised sleep schedule if needed. Kids who are well rested are better able to handle stress and be prepared for the new challenges of school.
Don’t dismiss worries – Sometimes kids struggle with back to school anxiety because they were bullied, teased, or struggled academically in previous years. Find out why your child is anxious and validate those feelings, then work together on a plan for a more positive year. If needed, contact school staff ahead of time to alert them to the concerns about bullying or academic struggles to formulate a plan that helps your child succeed. Kids who struggle with learning disabilities, behavior issues, speech disorders, or other things that affect their daily activities should have a resource team and IEP available that might include school nurses, therapists, or special education instructors.
Back to school anxiety is not uncommon, but working with your child in the weeks before the big day can help reduce that stress for everyone. If you feel that your child’s stress is extreme, be sure to talk with your child’s healthcare provider to make sure that you aren’t missing a larger issue. You can even plan a special new tradition, like a favorite breakfast food before school or an evening bike ride on a favorite trail, on the first day to celebrate a year full of new possibilities.