Coping with Back-to-School Anxiety: Tips for Parents and Kids

The back-to-school season can be an exciting yet anxious time for both parents and children. As summer comes to an end, the prospect of a new school year brings change, uncertainty, and stress. Students face new teachers, classmates, schedules, and academic challenges. Parents worry about their child's adjustment and performance. These transitions and the unknowns that come with them are common triggers for back-to-school anxiety.

Recognising the Signs

Anxiety can manifest differently depending on a child’s age. Younger kids may refuse to go to school, cling to parents, throw tantrums, or regress behaviorally, while older children may verbalise specific academic worries. Headaches, stomachaches, and difficulties sleeping may indicate somatic symptoms. Possible signs include:

  • Consistent sadness, irritability, and anger
  • Dropping grades and missed assignments
  • Isolation and loss of interest in activities
  • Fatigue, digestive issues, headaches

If you notice these lasting signs, speak to your child with empathy and seek support from the school counsellor. A paediatrician or therapist can guide you if problems persist.

5 Tips for Easing Anxiety

  1. Stick to routines - As summer ends, gradually transition into earlier bedtimes and morning procedures. Doing a test run can familiarise kids with the routine.
  2. Connect with classmates beforehand - Set up play dates with familiar friends to help kids feel comfortable going into a new year with peers they know.
  3. Do walkthroughs - Visiting classrooms and rehearsing drop-offs ahead of time allows kids to preview their new settings. Practice brief separations in the classroom while you wait outside.
  4. Use rewards - Praise brave behaviour and consider an incentive programme with small treats to motivate anxious kids.
  5. Validate worries - Listen carefully rather than immediately dismissing concerns. Once kids share their fears, guide them in problem-solving.

When to Seek Help

If symptoms last over a month with no improvement, meet with a mental health professional for evaluation and treatment. Untreated school avoidance can worsen over time. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medications may help in addressing persistent school refusal.

With compassion, patience and support, families can work through back-to-school anxiety struggles together. Maintaining open communication and seeking help when needed can set the stage for a successful school year ahead.

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