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Returning to School and Anxiety

by Marcella Moran, LMHC

For many kids, returning to school can create some anxiety.  Just yesterday, my nephew told me how he didn’t want to think about school because he remembered how sometimes he was left out of the games played at recess.  This made him feel “ very lonely and sad”.  In a matter of minutes, his thoughts of returning to school created such anxiety that he started to get upset.  To ease his anxiety, we discussed some coping strategies that he could implement if he felt isolated or left out again at school.  
I am the mother of two teenagers; I can’t wait for them to be back at school.  As parents count down for when school starts, we need to be mindful that our kids could be feeling a bit anxious about returning to school.  Below are some tips to use if your child is feeling some anxiety about returning to school.

  • Brainstorm. If your child didn’t handle a situation well, brainstorm on better strategies to use.  Was there a challenge/problem last year that your child struggled with? Did he have an issue with another student or teacher?  Which strategies would he use again and which ones does he need to change?
  • Contact your child’s teacher. Contact your child’s teacher and let her know about the anxiety your child may be feeling.  Be upfront and ask her to be discreet.  They want to help. Teachers have a crucial role in transitioning back to school.  
  • Go to school with your child before it starts.  This is especially true for students who are going into a new building.  Find their locker and set it up, walk through their schedule so they are comfortable with it and make sure to visit the cafeteria.  Also, show them the guidance counselor’s office.
  • Make some phone calls to find out which friends will be in their class.  Who doesn’t like to have a buddy in class? Knowing that a friend is in their class, will add comfort to the start of school.
  • Only discuss the first week of school.  Having a conversation about the entire school year can be anxiety provoking for even those who don’t have any anxiety issues.  If your child’s anxiety is spiraling because she is projecting about different problems that might occur during the year, try to refocus her to only looking at school, week by week.  Don’t talk about the spring in September.   Talking about what might happen a month from now may be too overwhelming for some.

Being sensitive to our children’s anxiety, will allow for an open discussion to explore their concerns and help to develop positive coping skills.  As the school year progresses, be mindful to check your child’s anxiety level and that they are incorporating good strategies.