ease back to school stress

Child Health | 3 months ago

5 Tips to Ease Back-to-School Anxiety

Start the school year off right with these helpful tips from one of our experts. 

Heading back to school can bring your child lots of excitement – and anxiety. Our expert offers five tips to help your child manage the mental stresses of going back to school. 

1. Talk it out.

Discuss with your child what it is that they’re feeling anxious about. Once you know the cause, you can make a plan together to help them feel better. For example, if they’re worried about being able to do the work at a higher grade level, talk with them about what they’ve done well in the past and how you and their teachers are here to help them perform at their best.

“Feed your children lots of encouraging words to boost their self-esteem and talk about how this school year is going to go well,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Crystal Bullard, MD, of Carolinas HealthCare System’s Behavioral Health - Charlotte.

2. Plan ahead.

Before the first day of school, take your child to the school to meet their teachers and tour the school (particularly if they are starting kindergarten or transitioning to middle school or high school). “Knowing what to expect and feeling prepared helps to decrease anxiety,” says Dr. Bullard.

If your child is returning to the same school and feeling anxious, try to find out if there are any children they know who will be on the bus, in the same classroom, or for older children, have a similar class schedule. If it’s a new school, try to help your child meet children who will be attending the school in your neighborhood so they’ll know a few faces on the first day.

3. Address shyness.

Dealing with a child who’s shy or nervous about making friends? For younger children, explain that a good way to make friends is sharing with others. This could be sharing some of their snack, or inviting someone to play with them at recess.  

For middle and high school children, ask them if there’s someone in their classes who seems friendly. Then, talk about or even role play how they could start a conversation with this person.

4. Monitor bullying.

Encourage your child to talk openly with you about bullying concerns. “Keeping it a secret is never helpful,” says Dr. Bullard. More serious bullying will need to be addressed by the school teachers, administration and parents.

5. Keep a routine.

The home environment significantly affects a child's school performance. “Children function best in a consistent home environment with structure and routine,” says Dr. Bullard. 

This includes waking up each morning at the same time; setting a routine breakfast, lunch and dinner time; and having a routine bedtime schedule.