5 Ways to Reduce Your Child's Back-to-School Anxiety

5 Ways to Reduce Your Child's Back-to-School Anxiety

Is it just first day butterflies or anxiety? Whether you have a kindergartner or a high school freshman, kids of all ages experience back-to-school anxiety.

kids walking up school stepsIn the days leading up to the first day of school, many parents overlook their child’s anxiety or nervous behavior. Although excitement and mild anxiety are expected, parents should be able to recognize the difference between first-day jitters and high levels of anxiety that warrant clinical attention.

“Children express anxiety in many different ways,” says Deb Cockerton, child and youth behavioral counselor from Ontario, Canada. Whether your child is vocal about his jitters or you simply notice a change in his behavior, there are ways you can help ease his anxiety.

Here are five ways to reduce anxiety in children:

  1. Build familiarity. A week or two before school starts, look for ways to weave your child’s school experiences into his or her life. Attending back-to-school open houses and setting play dates with peers can help them make new friends before school starts. This is a great time to build a routine for the school year, such as picking out clothes the night before, setting a bedtime, and waking up in the morning.
  2. Talk to your child about what to expect. Allow your child to ask questions that address his concerns about starting school. Listening to a child’s concerns can help parents better understand what is causing their child’s anxiety. Parents can address these concerns by talking with their children about what to expect when going to school. See if the school allows for teachers to meet their students prior to the first day so that they can ask questions about what to expect as well.
  3. Act it out. Role-play can help your child have positive interactions and build connections with their peers. Act out interactions like, “What could you say if you want to become friends with someone?” and “How could you respond if someone is mean to you?”
  4. Make a list. Parents can refocus their child’s attention on the positives by making a list of things that they’re excited about, as well as things that scare them.
  5. Create a safe place. Look for natural opportunities to listen and ask about your child’s day during regular activities like riding in the car, playing a game, grocery shopping, or doing a chore.

If your child’s anxiety doesn’t subside after the first two weeks of school, consider enlisting help for your child. Establishing a line of open communication with your child’s teacher and school counselor will help to support your effort in supporting your little one through the school year.

If you feel your child’s anxiety is higher than normal, contact your primary care provider at Paris Community Hospital/Family Medical Center at (217) 463-1946.