Tips to Ease Back-to-School Anxiety

What parents can do to alleviate back-to-school jitters

Nervous boy on first day of school

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Back-to-school anxiety is normal and understandable. Many kids may feel anxious about going back to school after a long summer break. Others may feel nervous about starting school for the first time. Whichever the case may be, parents can help ease the transition to back-to-school with these simple strategies.

Organize your home for back-to-school. A great way to ease some of your child's anxiety about going back to school is by getting your home ready for the transition.

Strategies such as making school lunches the night before or establishing a comfortable homework area can help make kids feel more in control and relieve some of their anxious feelings.

Help your child feel more comfortable about their new school environment. One of the things that can cause back-to-school anxiety for kids is not knowing what to expect. Help your child become more acclimated to new routines and unfamiliar surroundings by doing the following:

  • Take them for a visit to the school. If your child is starting kindergarten or first grade, they may be uneasy about going into a new building. Older grade-schoolers may be nervous about being in a new classroom or meeting a new teacher. To alleviate some of these concerns, ask your school about arranging a visit to the school and meeting the teacher before school begins.
  • Make a couple of drives back and forth from home to school. Whether your child will walk, take a school bus, or be driven to school, helping them become familiar with the route will help ease back-to-school anxiety. Even if your child is already familiar with the route to school, making a pre-first-day run will remind them where the school is, and help them feel more connected to where they will go on the first day back to school.
  • Go over the basics. Where will they hang their jacket? Where will they go to the bathroom? Where will they eat lunch? Knowing the answers to some of these questions will help make your child feel more comfortable in their new classroom.

Highlight the things that make school great. There are lots of attractive factors that can make school very appealing for kids. For starters, there's the swag—fun new school supplies and clothes. There will also be friends they haven't seen and things they may have missed about school—or can look forward to if she's starting school -- such as the playground or making arts and crafts projects.

Arrange some playdates. Help your child reconnect with old friends or make new ones before school starts. Try to get a class list if possible and set up some playdates with familiar pals as well as kids they may not be familiar with.

If they are anxious about not being in the same class with old friends, reassure them by scheduling regular playdates with their friends after school so that they can stay connected.

Remind them that they're not the only one who may be nervous. Let your child know that the other students are likely to be just as anxious as they are about the first day of school. Reassure them by explaining that the teacher knows that the children are nervous, and will probably spend some time helping the students feel more comfortable as they settle into the classroom.

Try to be home more during back-to-school time. Right before school starts and during the first days back, try to make it a point to be present at home for your child and support them through this transition back to school. If you work away from home, try to arrange your hours so that you are able to drop your child off at school and are home in time for after school or an early dinner. If you stay at home, try to focus more on your child and put everything else on the back burner. Spend some time talking to your child about their day such as what they liked and what they might have questions about.

By giving your child more attention, you will help them feel more secure about their connection to you and home, and help them navigate back-to-school time.

Make sure they get enough sleep and eats a balanced diet. Getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy diet, especially a protein-carbohydrate balanced breakfast, is important for brain function, mood, and the ability to focus and pay attention in school.

Keep an eye on their school anxiety. You know your child best. If you sense that their back-to-school anxiety may be rooted in something more serious, such as an anxiety disorder or a problem with a bully, talk with your child, your child's teacher, and the school counselor.

And remember to try to get yourself relaxed as much as possible. Back-to-school time can also be a hectic time for parents, so taking care of yourself by eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise is a good idea during this transitional phase back to school.

Try to remind yourself that any anxiety or stress you or your child may be feeling is only temporary.

Before you know it, your family will be back in the back-to-school groove, and you'll be sailing smoothly into the fall semester.

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