For students and parents alike, back-to-school season is an exciting time filled with new possibilities and hopes for the year ahead. But for many children, the start to a new school year—and all the changes that come with it—can also be anxiety-inducing. A study of parents ranked schoolwork (53%) and friends (51%) as the primary sources of their children’s stress. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help your child work through their unease and start off on the right foot this school year.
- Lead by example. The start to the new school year can be stressful for everyone involved. It’s important to remain calm when interacting with your child leading up to the first day of school because they look to you for guidance and comfort. Be sure to take a little time for yourself to do something that relaxes you—such as exercise, a calming bath, or talking on the phone with friends. Not only is it a relaxing treat for you, you’re setting a positive example for your child as well.
- Focus on the positive. While the new school year can be worrisome for children, it’s full of new opportunities to learn, play, and make friends. Help your child focus on positive aspects of a new school year. Working together with your child, brainstorm a list of things they are eager to try in the year ahead. Review this list together and notice any areas they are particularly excited about. For instance, if your child is looking forward to art class, consider signing them up for an extracurricular art club or buying them a sketchpad.
- Let your child know that they are not alone. If your child is feeling anxious about going back to school, they may think that they are alone in their feelings. Reassure them that almost everyone experiences some anxiety when starting a new routine, even if they appear calm on the outside. Tell your child a story about a time when you were nervous to try something new, how you dealt with the situation, and how everything turned out to be alright in the end.
- Help your child feel ownership. One of the most exciting parts of going back to school is shopping for brand new school supplies. Talk with your child about how new pencils, folders, and backpacks are tools that will help them to succeed this year. Let your child pick out a few special supplies of their choosing. Taking on this responsibility will help them to feel in control and prepared to take on challenges in the weeks ahead.
- Cover new routines. A new school is accompanied by changes in schedule, and these disruptions can be worrisome for many children. In order to lessen your child’s fears, walk them through what a typical day will look like once the new school year begins. You may even consider doing a “practice run” of the first day of school, where you and your child walk through a typical routine of waking up earlier, packing a backpack, and taking a walk to the school bus stop.
We hope these tips help you and your family to ease back into the school year with confidence.