Parents often joke that they are relieved when the end of summer arrives and are eager to put their children back into the routine of the school year. Yet, most of us know that the transition often isn’t an easy one. In fact, your family’s return to the classroom may be fraught with all kinds of fears, anxieties, and upset. So much so, that you all require a clear plan for staying calm and keeping cool until everyone is settled in.
Is your child nervous about a new classroom, school, or academic challenges? It’s perfectly normal to be nervous. You may be able to talk through their jitters or simply attend back to school night activities to put their minds at ease. But if you sense real fear or ongoing overwhelm, you may need the following strategies to help keep things in perspective and lay the groundwork for a successful term.
Here are a few practical tips to rein in back to school anxiety:
1. Self Care is Crucial
Making healthy habits a foundational part of your home life is key during the school year. When you or the children are tired, lacking sound nutrition or leaving too little time to relax or sleep well, anxiety happens. The mind and body need the opportunity to work well as a team. Summertime can be fun but not particularly supportive of the daily rhythm of school and extracurricular schedules. Consider the following ideas:
- Prime your pantry and fridge with healthy snacks and meals
- Hydrate with water as much as possible
- Ease up on screen time and reinstate nightly routines and bedtime as soon as possible
Generally, try to be aware of any activity or habit that seems to exacerbate anxiety. If quizzing the morning of a test creates problems, don’t do it and have a calming conversation over breakfast instead.
2. Set Your Path Daily
Anxiety is often rooted in the fear of the unknown and uncertainty. Start each day with calm and a sense of collectedness. Though you cannot prepare for every twist or turn in your day, the object is not to control everything, but to smooth the way where you can. This will help you and your child feel more confident about your ability to take charge and feel as equipped as possible. You can stay positive and less rushed with a few key steps like these:
- Plan clothing the night before
- Set your bags, keys, and other takeaway items near the door
- Keep breakfast items easy, nutritious, able to travel with you if necessary
- Spend a bit of time connecting (a quick kiss, chat, call or text depending on your household)
- Leave a little time for reflecting (a moment or two to breathe, check-in internally, journal, or pray)
Having a daily launch routine helps to reduce common stressors and the chance that they will build throughout the day.
3. Be Frank and Upfront About Feelings
You and your children will feel better if you can talk about fear, sadness, embarrassment, and inadequacy or insecurity. Those feelings are legitimate. Being sure that they feel understood is crucial for the sake of their self-esteem and ability to self-soothe.
Take time to deal with the emotions surrounding the return to school, yours and theirs.
As a parent, when you are coping with any anxious thoughts you have about your child; Do you find yourself hovering or rescuing too often?
Any doubts you harbor about your child’s ability to cope with school may be unintentionally projected onto them. It is important to work through these feelings either on your own or with a counselor to better support your child’s confidence and self-reliance.
To help your child navigate their own emotions, try the following:
- Welcome difficult subjects or questions.
- Help them name their worries and face them.
- Talk about worries seriously, even if they seem small or hard to understand.
- Convey reliability and a willingness to support and protect them.
- Invite your child to solve the problem themselves, with your assistance.
Finally, resist shaming or blaming your child for social, test, or separation anxiety. Communicate that anxiety is a solvable problem.
3. Work Through Worries & Worst-Case Scenarios
School can seem like a minefield of potential problems if you are prone to worry. There are a million little things to manage, possible social embarrassments, and worrisome academic challenges and test pressures. In addition, there are a as well as a host of things they don’t know, haven’t learned or can’t see coming. It’s a lot for an anxious mind.
To mitigate persistent negativity and overwhelm, do let your kids know that their feelings matter. However, be clear that they are not all that matter. Acknowledge any fears but help them look at the issues from a variety of angles. Helping your child realize that feelings are legitimate but not always based in reality is key.
From there, you’ll be able to deal with those feelings productively without giving them more power. Encourage them to practice calming breaths and intentionally challenge the thoughts and behaviors that fuel upset or panic.
The unknown can be intimidating and bewildering. The more you notice it from your child into a new school year, the more important it is to communicate and show your kids where they can seek out support at school too. If necessary, talk to teachers, counselors, and coaches to ensure you are all on the same page regarding your child’s needs.
5. Encourage Confidence-Boosting Skills
To reduce anxiety, practicing certain life skills can help your child feel more positive, confident, and in control at school without you. Do what you can to foster more independent thinking and problem-solving.
Teaching your child to balance time commitments, approach academic challenges, stand up to bullying, and navigate changing friendships takes time. Be patient and help them practice interactions and internal affirmations that help them feel prepared each day.
In addition, you may want to consider sessions with a counselor. A safe space to share concerns, receive guidance and practice life skills can be a great way to build confidence routinely.
With support, you can provide your child support for the school year. Contact me soon so that I can partner with you to help provide the tools necessary for helping your young person manage academic and relationship challenges. Read more about the road to confidence on my Individual Counseling page.