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Posted by Michelle Rigg on 01/02/2023

Helping your child with school anxiety after a break

Helping your child with school anxiety after a break

“Back-to-school” time after an extended break is always an exciting time of year, but it can also be stressful for children. Many children experience anxiety, and because of their age, this most often manifests in school-related issues.   Kids can feel excited, nervous and even anxious about school.  Wondering what their teacher will be like, will any of their friends be in their class, will the other kids play with them, etc. But when your child starts refusing to go to school or wants to come home in the middle of the day, it's hard on both the parent and the child.

With resurgences of COVID-19 in certain areas, many schools and parents across the country take precautionary measures to keep kids in school. That may includes things like mask-wearing, social distancing, and encouraging quarantining for those who have been exposed to the virus. 

As you might expect, that can create a lot of extra back-to-school anxiety. Add it onto the “normal” worries about friendships, grades, and extracurricular activities, and your child might struggle with the idea of going back. 

So, what can you do to help them manage their back-to-school anxiety? How can you make sure they handle those fears in a healthy way?

Establish Routines

Children thrive on routine. Having one is a great way to make them feel comfortable and secure each day. Their summer or winter break routine may have been a bit more relaxed. But, if school is starting soon, now is the perfect time to start implementing the routine they’ll use on a daily basis. 

That means waking up at the same time each day, for starters. After that, establish a morning routine that works best for your child. That might include sitting down for breakfast, getting dressed, and making their bed. 

The routine should continue when they get home from school. They might have dedicated time for doing homework, playing outside, or watching television. Having a “set” time for bed is also important to ensure they get enough rest. 

By putting a back-to-school routine in place now, your kids won’t feel so overwhelmed by the change when school starts. It will be a “constant” they can look forward to, especially if other things seem uncertain. 

Connect With Friends Beforehand

If your child is going to a new school, try to set up some playdates or meetings with another kid or two who will be in their class. Even having one person they know with them on the first day can ease their worries. 

This is a good tip even if your child is going back to their “normal” school and has plenty of friends there. Over the summer, they may not have seen their friends often—if at all. Encouraging them to reconnect before the school year starts is a great way to boost everyone’s comfort level. 

Talk to Them About Changes

Across the country, many parents are already seeing this school year may be different. It’s important to relay whatever information you get from your local district to your child—in an age-appropriate way. 

Again, when children have a better understanding of what to expect, those things become less overwhelming and frightening. Things like mask mandates and distancing can be difficult for young children. Talking to them in a way you know they’ll understand can make it easier on them before they even enter a school building. 

Make sure you’re talking to your child throughout the year, too. Right now, no one knows how things might change regularly. Checking in with your child to ask how they’re doing and what they’re feeling can make a big difference. 

They might not always want to talk about things—especially older kids or teenagers. But when they know they have your support and can turn to you when they’re struggling, they’re more likely to take advantage of that before their worries become a bigger concern. By keeping these tips in mind, you can help your child manage anxiety about resuming school.

More importantly, you'll show them you will always be an advocate for their mental well-being.  

Is your child or teen struggling with school anxiety?

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