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Managing Back to School Anxieties

by Emily Cullen
Boy working at desk
Youth in Classroom

The other day I was watching TV when a commercial advertising back-to-school shopping came on. I couldn’t believe it—back to school already! It feels like summer just started!

Now, despite what this commercial was telling me, back-to-school time is not “the most wonderful time of the year” for everyone. For kids and teens with school anxiety, this can be one of the most challenging times of the year. Some nervousness and back to school jitters are completely normal and there are some easy and healthy ways that parents can help their kids manage these feelings.

This blog post offers some ideas to support families as they prepare for school.

  1. Have some practice walks to and from your child’s school (particularly if it’s new to them). Repeated practice (or exposure) to the things that make us nervous lessens the bad feelings and helps us to become more comfortable. If your child is especially nervous of a new school; try giving the school a call at the end of August to see if you can go for a tour. If you have an older child or teen transitioning to middle school or high school encourage them to take advantage of school-organized transition activities such as orientations. Practice not only makes perfect—it lessens anxiety.
  2. Engage your child or teen in conversations about their specific fears. They may ask you: “what if I don’t have any friends in my class?”, “who will I eat lunch with on the first day?” and “what if I hate my teacher?” Listen carefully to what they have to say, validate their fears and help them to know that they are not alone or weird for feeling the way that they do (we all remember what it feels like to worry that we might have to sit alone at lunch or get the “mean” teacher!) If they are still feeling worried, help them problem solve the issue (i.e. have a strategy or game plan for what to do if the feared situation arises). They may still feel a bit nervous, but now they will have the comfort of having a plan in place, just in case!
  3. As we move through the month of August, slowly begin to re-instate your school year routines (like earlier bedtimes, homework/reading time each day, packing lunches before bed…). It may seem like a bit of a drag when the weather’s still so nice, but a slow move back into the school routine will help to combat anxiety and give you plenty of time to deal with any bumps that come up in the process.
If you feel like your child or teen’s school anxiety is unmanageable or that they are having serious mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek help. If you live in Waterloo Region, contact Front Door
519-749-2932, Monday – Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. for help accessing local mental health services for children and youth, visit a walk-in clinic, or schedule an appointment with your family doctor. If you need crisis support outside business hours, call Here 24/7 at 1-844-437-3247 or visit www.here247.ca. And, if you are concerned that your child or teen may be so anxious that they are in immediate danger of hurting themselves, call 911.



Remember, school anxiety (even severe cases) is quite common and highly treatable—and the sooner you get help, the better you and your child will feeI!I am looking forward to welcoming my new students in September!