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8 Tips for Easing Back-to-School Anxiety

It’s not unusual for children, even young ones, to experience anxiety. Children often show anxiety through emotions by crying or becoming sensitive, grumpy, or angry. Anxiety may appear through physical symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches, restlessness, hyperactivity, distraction, tense muscles, or trouble falling or staying asleep.

After a few months at home, some children may feel anxious about returning to school. Perhaps your child is starting a new school this year or is reluctant to leave your family after spending so much time together. Set your child up for success this school year and ease their back-to-school anxiety with these tips.

  1. Take care of the basics.
    Being prepared is key if you’re worried your child may have trouble adjusting to the new school year. Gather everything they need before school starts. Ensure your child is up to date on their yearly check-ups and immunizations, as their Primary Care provider recommends. Begin to plan healthy lunchbox meal ideas, organize their backpack, pick out school clothes, and ensure they have all the supplies they need for the classroom.
  1. Reset their sleep schedule.
    If your child stayed up later during the summer months, begin to adjust their bedtimes gradually—and stick to them. Before the first day of school, they should go to bed and wake up on time easily. A good night’s rest helps young bodies grow, fights off infection, and improves overall mental health and performance in the classroom.
  1. Set a routine and test run before the big day.
    Waiting until the last minute can make some kids feel more anxious. After prepping everything your child needs to start the year, begin to practice morning and evening routines. Rehearse the drop-off and pick-up routine and familiarize your child with everything they need to do before and after school.
  1. Practice mindfulness and coping techniques.

Being anxious or worried, especially about going back to school, is totally normal. There are different ways that you can approach those feelings. Mindfulness techniques, yoga, and more can teach your child how to stop, return to their body during intrusive thoughts, and react positively and resiliently to stressful situations. For example, the YMCA of Frederick County’s Head Start program offers yoga for children through its Bee Mindful: Yoga and Mindfulness Techniques for the Classroom program. Our partner LiveWell Frederick explains more about this program in their Q&A with YMCA Family Advocate Maria Wardlow.

  1. Create a positive environment.
    Talk to your child and listen to their worries. Acknowledge that starting a new year can be exciting and challenging, but it will soon improve. Let them know you are there to listen and help make going back easier. Talk about their interests in school. Be present when you’re together and ask them what they need from you for success. Approaching their anxiety with compassion and kindness lets them know what they’re feeling is okay and you love them and want to help.
  1. Promote a healthy lifestyle.
    Diet and exercise can affect your child’s mental health. Make sure they get the recommended five fruits or vegetables daily, starting with a balanced, nutritious breakfast. Let your child blow off some steam with active sports or any physical activity that gets them up and moving.
  1. Schedule play dates.
    Research shows that having a familiar face at school can improve a child’s academic and emotional adjustment. Consider setting up a time for your child and a classmate to play before school starts. Have other social events or outings with friends once school starts too. Socialization will make them feel less alone, especially during anxious times.
Know the signs of a more serious problem.
Some jitters before going back to school are normal. Still, suppose your child shows extreme signs of anxiety, depression, or anger. In that case, it may be a sign of greater issues. If you’re concerned about your child returning to school, reach out to their Primary Care provider or a school guidance counselor, teacher, or aide before their first day. You can also visit Frederick Health Primary Care, where behavioral health specialists can do consultations or be a resource for your child’s unique needs.