Back-to-school anxiety is a normal feeling that starts to take hold as August turns into September. The transition can bring up feelings that children may not know how to manage. The closer it gets to the beginning of school, the more parents should be on the lookout for signs that their children may be struggling with the upcoming changes.
What is Anxiety?
What Does Anxiety Look Like?
Students who have anxiety may show it in different ways. Mom and dad know what is normal for their kids, so any out of character behavior can indicate a child feeling anxious.
Some typical behavior may include:
- Quick to anger or get upset
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive worry and negative ideas about the future
- Changes to their eating and sleeping routines
How to Calm Back-to-School Anxiety
Parents may feel helpless when their children are suffering from anxiety. Luckily, they can do things to guide and support them through preparing for the upcoming school year.
There are a lot of firsts at back-to-school time. A new school, grade, or form of transportation are often contributing factors. Parents should help their children feel safe and comfortable by taking their children on the route to school and doing a few practice runs, visiting the school, or even downloading a map of the school so their students will know where they’re going and how on their first day of school.
It’s important to value the power of really listening. Children will talk about their fears about the new school year, though maybe not in an obvious way. Many children won’t have the vocabulary to express exactly what they feel, so it’s vital to listen to what they do say, observe their body language, and notice how they express themselves. Understanding the source of the fear can help when it is time to address it. Children and teens want to be heard, and parents can help by listening without judgment.
Shopping is an integral part of the back-to-school experience. Parents can give children some much-needed control and make it fun by allowing them to pick out their own school supplies. Even younger children have preferences on character, color, and style. They benefit from feeling like their choices are important, even if it’s only what color backpack or types of erasers they choose. Parents can consider making back-to-school shopping an extra-special event by adding a fun activity to the day. Stopping at their favorite restaurant for lunch or going to the park after shopping will give them something to look forward to when the shopping is complete. Anxious children will enjoy the extra attention and focus while preparing for the new school year.
Role Play Difficult Situations
Studies have shown that engaging in role-play is an effective way to help anxious children. Role-playing worrisome scenarios with students can help them feel comfortable and confident in their own skin. This is a fun way to actively engage with children and learn more about what is driving their anxiety.
Address the Elephant in the Room
The pandemic has changed the way kids are educated. Many students have been staying home and studying online, and this may be the first time they are returning to school, starting school, or attending in-person since the end of the 2018-2019 school year. While there can be excitement over meeting or reconnecting with friends, there will also be challenges. Concerns about social interactions, mask regulations, and classroom expectations can be overwhelming. Parents can help by talking about the pandemic and how to stay safe in the classroom, as well as going over conversation etiquette and how to address bullying.
Living a healthy lifestyle won’t stop anxiety, but it can make it easier to manage. Parents should make sure their children eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and get enough sleep. A healthy body makes it easier to have a healthy mind.
When to See a Professional
Parents should talk about anxiety with their kids and get to the root of their fears as often as possible. If it seems like there is a significant amount of anxiety, it might be time to seek professional assistance. At Core Recovery, we have specialists who can help children and teens to work through their anxiety issues.