ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill.
Easing back-to-school anxiety
- Feb. 14, 2018
-- For many kids, starting a new school year causes a spike in Back-to-School Anxiety. Students grapple with new schools, new routines, academic pressure, new friendships, social situations, and more. With approximately 25%
of children in the US affected by anxiety disorders, many parents struggle to help their children cope with anxiety that can feel like more than first-day jitters.
Back-to-School Anxiety and the social environment can take a variety of forms, but common symptoms include:
- Difficulty separating from parents, especially for younger children
- Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or not feeling rested in the morning
- Worries about schedules and routines—such as having enough time to eat, remembering where to catch the bus, and navigating schedule complexities
- Feelings of isolation, nervousness, or struggling to make social connections
- Stomachaches, headaches, and other symptoms of physical distress
Parents often wonder how they can help ease a child's Back-to-School Anxiety. I encourage parents to work through some of the following tips:
- Listen and acknowledge your child's concerns. Helping your child feel heard and supported can go a long way towards easing fear and stress.
- Develop a routine. A consistent evening and bedtime routine soothes both the body and mind. Make time to reconnect with your child in the evening. Prepare lunches, attend to homework and other preparations for the next day, and leave enough time for a good night's rest.
- Encourage friendships and social connections. For young children and adolescents, making and sustaining friendships can be challenging. If you have a young child, facilitate playdates outside the school environment to encourage bonding. For older children and adolescents, you might provide transportation or supervise outings that help them to build relationships with friends.
- Rehearse schedules. If your child is anxious about his routine, or where he needs to catch a bus, practice with a dry run or two. Successfully handling the schedule builds your child's confidence and reduces stress.
- Let your child see you be vulnerable, too. It is powerful for children to see their parents assessing and tackling difficult situations, too. You might tell your child about your memories of things that didn't go right in school, or share what makes you anxious as an adult (if you're comfortable doing so).
While many case of Back-to-School Anxiety will ease in time, some adolescents struggle with social anxiety disorder. Symptoms can include avoidance of or extreme discomfort in social situations. Often, social anxiety interferes with an individual's life and his or her ability to fulfill responsibilities of school and home.