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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

How To Handle Back-To-School Anxiety!

Back-to school anxiety is normal for children and it is our responsibility as parents to help them cope with it. It is not always the unwillingness to go back to school, but the anxiety around attending a new grade, meeting new friends, and handling new situations.

Psychologist Erika Chiappini, who specializes in the treatment of childhood anxiety and related disorders at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center says, “Parents or caregivers may notice their children exhibiting some nervousness about new routines, schoolwork or social interactions. Some of this is a normal part of back-to-school jitters that gradually diminish over a few weeks.”

However, parents need to understand when it is a case of anxiety that can be handled versus when it might turn into refusal. If your child is feeling anxious about school, it can be exhausting for both of you. It can lead to stressful mornings where you have to balance your child’s feelings alongside the need to get them to school and your other responsibilities such as work. Your child might take time to adjust to the new environment if they are returning to school after a break, which might sometimes affect your routine too.

There are several indicators to show when a child’s anxiety is cause for concern. Red flags that indicate a child’s anxiety is causing a great deal of distress include:

  • Throwing tantrums when separating from parents or caregivers to attend school

  • Difficulty getting along with family members or friends

  • Avoidance of normal activities in and outside of school

  • Symptoms such as stomach aches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping alone

Here are some ways in which you can help your child cope with back-to-school anxiety.

  • A week or two before school, start preparing children for the upcoming transition by resuming school-year routines, such as setting a realistic bedtime and selecting tomorrow’s clothes.

  • Arrange play dates with one or more familiar peers before school starts. Research shows that the presence of a familiar peer during school transitions can improve children’s academic and emotional adjustment.

  • Visit the school, if possible before the school year begins, rehearse the drop-off, and spend time on the playground or inside the classroom if the building is open. Have your child practice walking into class while you wait outside or down the hall. This is very important for younger children or first-time schoolgoers.

  • Validate the child’s anxiety by acknowledging that, like any new activity, starting school can be hard but soon becomes easy and fun. Don’t presume that things will always be fine just because they have attended the earlier grades.

  • Discuss what happened at school with your child. Listen to what they have to say, and notice if there are any signs of distress. Also, talk to them about the fun things that await them in the new session. 

Getting back to school after weeks or months may feel extremely difficult for your child, but you and the school can help make it more manageable. If required, consulting an expert can help children and parents understand the child’s symptoms and work together on resolving them.


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