Tips For Back-To-School Anxiety
The beginning of the school year is often a period of major transition for children and their parents. The COVID-19 pandemic led to many children not having attended in-person school for nearly two school years. There are also many children beginning kindergarten who did not have recent preschool. This along with the rise in mental health concerns during the pandemic has led to an increase in social and school anxiety.
Here are some tips to help decrease your child’s back-to-school anxiety to help them transition as smoothly as possible.
Discuss Fears. Spend time discussing your child’s thoughts and feelings about beginning the school year. If there are areas that trigger anxiety, such as taking the bus or meeting new people, let your child know that these are normal things to feel anxious about and then help teach them how to cope with that anxiety. Discuss simple coping strategies they can use if feeling anxious like taking a deep breath or asking an adult for help. Many children find the smell of lavender lotion to be soothing or are calmed by having something small to fidget with like a bead on a bracelet.
Find Excitement. Though it is important to discuss back-to-school fears, it is also important to help your child focus on things they are excited about with going to school. Help your child find three things they are looking forward such as making new friends, playing at recess, and art class.
Make a Plan. Discuss the new structure/routines your child will experience and develop a plan for helping them adjust. Taking children to visit their new school and play at the playground can help.
Ask about meeting the teacher and touring the school. Take practice walks to the bus stop. Discuss the routines of before, during, and afterschool. Plan small daily rewards your child can earn for facing their back-to-school fears.
If your child is fearful of meeting new people help them practice. Play pretend games at home where you are a new peer your child meets at school and take them to playground and encourage them to practice meeting new kids.
If your child has sensory sensitivities try to practice building up tolerance for wearing a mask, lighting, and a noisy lunchroom.
Communication and Support. Communicating with your child’s teacher can be very useful in helping your child overcome back-to-school anxiety. Work with your child’s teacher on how to help your child feel more comfortable at school. Seek additional support if needed through school counselors and mental health providers who have specialized training and experience helping children work through anxiety at school.