By: Jolene Roehlkepartain
My kids have mixed feelings about summer coming to an end. On one hand, they’re somewhat bored and they’re looking forward to a change of pace and seeing friends that they haven’t seen all summer. On the other hand, they’re not particularly looking forward to going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, and doing homework. Many kids will also feel some level of anxiety about going back to school, whether they’re starting a new school or not. The truth is that few kids will love school 100 percent or hate school 100 percent, so now is the time to talk through the anxieties and fears your child may have about going back to school.
As a parent, I’ve raised both of my kids to get to know themselves at their core and to become who they want to be. One of my sons has found that he is embraced by many of his peers for being who he is. My other son, however, has a harder time with his peers. He’s been bullied and harassed, but he would rather be himself than try to be someone he is not, just to fit in. Still, that’s hard on him, and that’s hard on me as a parent. This year, he’s dreading physical education. He just hates changing in the locker room, and since he’s not athletic like his peers, he doesn’t like that physical education is a required course, particularly since he wishes the class would help him get into physical shape rather than catering to the athletes.
- Does your child have anxiety about being bullied? What you can do to help >
You or a parent you know may be dealing with a completely different issue. You may have a child who would rather take physical education all day and skip all the other subjects. Some kids may feel anxiety about going back to school when they’re facing physical, mental, emotional, or learning differences. It’s important for parents to advocate for kids facing these types of issues. Some parents will even go as far as changing a caseworker, a social worker, or an IEP plan if it benefits their child. These changes aren’t always easy to make, but parents who advocate for their kids can help their kids succeed.
No matter what your situation, communicating with your child about his or her anxieties is key. Try to empathize with your child about his anxieties, and remind him that nerves are normal, but maintaining a positive attitude can go a long way. Try the following tips to further ease back to school anxiety.
1. Pack up the kids and pay a visit to school on the Saturday before opening day. A tour around the campus can be a simple way to ease the first-day jitters— especially for those students who will be starting a new school.
2. Try to schedule a brief introduction with your child’s teacher before school starts, or send your child’s teacher an e-mail introducing yourself. Your enthusiasm will give teachers a positive outlook on parent involvement in the classroom.
- Download our free Parent-Teacher Introduction e-mail template to send out before the first day of school >
3. Make a decision— with your child, if she is old enough— about school lunches. Will she be taking a bagged lunch to school or purchasing lunch at the school cafeteria? It’s helpful to plan out bagged lunches at least a week in advance. Most schools now offer healthier school lunch options, so there’s no need to stress over whether or not your kid is getting her proper nutrition.
4. Address your child’s social anxiety at home. Grab a stuffed animal, or a spouse, and role play out some of the potentially stressful scenarios your child may encounter at a new school: making friends, encountering older kids and encounters with strangers.
5. Keep back to school supplies together, by the door. Encourage your child to clean up his homework area every evening after homework is complete. Books and homework should be placed inside backpacks, and backpacks placed near the door to eliminate rushing around, searching for school items in the morning.
Tell Us: ——> Do you have a clever tip for easing back to school anxiety? We’d love to hear about it. Comment below!
1. American Psychological Association, “Dealing with the Back-to-School Blues?” American Psychological Association, 2011.
2. American Academy of Pediatrics, “Back to School Tips,” 2013.
3. American Dental Association, “Back-to-School Checkup,” 2004.
4. Back to School and Beyond, ParentFurther.
5. Image via chefrandenon Flick’r