Conquering Back-to-School Anxiety


School looks   Many children experience anxiety prior to the start of the school year, and for some of them, it continues well into the first marking period.  This anxiety is not limited to elementary school children; it can affect middle school and even high school students. Your child’s anxiety can lead to resistance and lateness in the mornings, arguments about having to go to school, tears or emotional withdrawal.  You want to help your child but what should you do?

Here are some ideas about how you can help your child cope with and overcome anxiety about school routines, academic demands, and the stress of changing friendships that students often worry about before the school year begins.

For young children, decide who is taking them the first day, and reassure them about pick-up or bus routines going forward.  Meet a new teacher if possible, and try to have an orientation so the child is familiar with the layout of the school.  Arranging play dates with school peers, especially if there has not been a lot of contact during the summer, is also a good way to transition back into something that can make the school year more fun.  Give the child positive reinforcement for any small acts of bravery in facing her worries.


At any age, listen and be empathic if your child expresses anxiety.  Do not offer empty reassurance; instead ask the child what might help him feel better, and try to problem solve together.  Validate the child’s feeling of worry or nervousness, even if the cause seems silly to you.   It can help for your child to carry something small that fits in a pocket – a worry ball, a picture of the family, a shell from the beach visited over the summer.  These items can provide a reminder of home and good things when the going gets tough.

If you also suffered from worry before the school year began, share not just the worry part, but how you conquered it when you were in school.  Let your child know that many, many people worry.  What makes the difference is how you handle that worry.

You know your child best, and there may be other things that you know would help.  Be creative in letting your child know that you trust him or her to deal with the worry and come through it.  Make a favorite breakfast and treat that first morning as if it will be a wonderful day.