After a summer of fun in the sun and waking up late, it’s not uncommon for children and parents alike to feel anxiety about returning to school. Fear of the unknown, a change in schedules, and a return to the structure of the school day can make the back-to-school season stressful. The good news is that, with a little bit of help, back-to-school anxiety can be managed.
What is Back-to-School Anxiety?
As summer winds down, anxiety can rev up. Looming ahead are lesson plans and homework, studying for tests, and navigating social situations. Due to these expectations, students of all ages can experience heightened stress during the start of a new school year, called back-to-school anxiety.
Data from Mental Health America shows that 31.9% of teens ages 13-18 have an anxiety disorder, making these teens more prone to feeling back-to-school anxiety. Even college-aged students may feel increased stress before a new school year, especially if it’s their first time in college.
Tips for Managing Back-to-School Anxiety
The heightened stress that comes with the back-to-school season is common, but there are a variety of ways to manage the stress. The following are a few tips to combat back-to-school anxiety and start the school year with confidence.
Spot the Signs of Back-to-School Anxiety
Not every child experiences back-to-school anxiety. However, for those that do, caregivers need to identify the signs before the anxiety becomes overwhelming. Some common signs of back-to-school stress are:
- Resistance to participating in back-to-school activities like shopping, school tours, or new-student meet-and-greets.
- Repetitive questions about the school year. “What if I don’t make friends?” “What if I’m late to school?”
- An increase in physical complaints like headaches or fatigue.
- Changes in sleeping patterns.
Recognizing the signs of back-to-school anxiety is the first step to helping your child overcome stress.
Acknowledge the Anxiety
Addressing anxiety rather than ignoring it helps conquer stress. It’s natural to want to hide from anxiety, but doing so only reinforces the anxiety in the long term. Confronting back-to-school anxiety empowers the child and weakens the power of fear. A supportive and constructive conversation with a child struggling with back-to-school anxiety starts the journey toward a successful school year.
Plan and Rehearse
Heading into unfamiliar situations leads to anxiety. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, planning and rehearsing prepares children for the upcoming school year and reduces stress. For example, children and parents can perform
a calm simulated walk-through of the daily morning routine for school. Familiarizing children with their new routines before the start of classes can reduce anxiety once the school year arrives.
Sometimes, it’s a specific situation that a student or parent dreads about the school year. Finding ways to address the issue rather than avoid it alleviates stress and offers a sense of control. Whether the problem is potential bullying, test anxiety, homesickness, or making friends, discovering possible solutions can reduce back-to-school stress.