Five Tips to Manage Back-to-School Anxiety (Parents' that is!)

Lifespan Blog Team

It’s fairly easy to recognize the back-to-school jitters that emerge in children come autumn, but what’s less commonly understood are the anxieties that parents exhibit during this stressful transition period.

Here are the top five ways you can ease your child’s worries while ensuring your own peace of mind.

1. Prepare early for a drastic schedule change.

Summer is the time for leisure, relaxed schedules, and sleeping in. Typically, the start of the school year signifies a more rigid agenda, between school itself, homework, and clubs or sports. To make this transition a little less difficult, start easing into a more structured schedule one to two weeks before the first day of school. Enforce a regular bedtime, select clothes and meals the night before and have breakfast together as a family.

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School, Anxiety and Kids

Once the school year starts, the back-to-school jitters can settle down, but other triggers can cause stress and angst as well. Jennifer Jencks, PhD, director of the Access Center at Bradley Hospital, answers some common questions.

2. Talk it out.

Talking to your child is always helpful in gauging how your son or daughter is feeling. When they express anxieties about going back to school, it’s best to acknowledge that their fears are valid. Instead of offering a blanket statement like “everything will be fine,” assure them that every one of their classmates feels the same way that they do. Remind them of how nervous they were for the first day of school the year before, but after just a few days, they loved their classroom, teacher, and new friends. Tell them you also got nervous for your first day of school or a job

3. Stay calm.

It’s possible that your child’s nerves mirror your own anxieties about the upcoming rigors of fall. Your workload increases, you must find time to help with homework and carpooling, and you’re worried your child won’t like their teacher or worse, that they’ll be bullied. It’s important to remain calm and collected. Your child is looking to you for reassurance and encouragement, so try to keep your own anxieties in check.

4. Get together with friends.

Arranging a play date between your child and a familiar face from school before the first day can improve a child’s emotional and academic adjustment. Remembering that they’re not alone will ease their worries and relax their minds. Plus, you can chat with a fellow parent about how their family is handling the transition.

5. Know the signs of a more serious problem.

While many children experience nerves in the coming weeks before school, parents should also be aware of warning signs that may indicate prolonged anxiety. Some of these signs include changes in eating habits, problems sleeping, excessive clinginess, increased irritability, social isolation, tantrums, or headaches. If any of these behaviors persist longer than two weeks, consider consulting a professional. Many children can work through back-to-school anxiety individually, but when it interferes with daily living, it’s time to seek help. The experts at Bradley Hospital can help.

Visit our pediatric anxiety research center page

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