For the past couple of years, the back-to-school season hasn’t exactly been the easiest part of the year for parents and children. We’ve all had to deal with disruptions to our stable routines like we’ve never seen before, and instability can generate anxiety, especially in children. As a parent, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed, too, and finding a way to ease your child’s school-related anxiety while you’re under pressure yourself is tricky. However, here are some tips that can help.

Acknowledge Anxiety

One of the best first steps is ensuring your child knows that some level of anxiety is a normal part of life. Life is full of uncertainties, and everyone worries about what will happen in the future, so it’s normal to feel scared sometimes. It’s even normal to feel conflicting emotions at the same time. By acknowledging that anxiety is something everyone feels, including parents, you can help your child learn how to tell the difference between normal anxiety and feelings that are cause for concern.

Be a Role Model

Research has shown that a parent with an anxiety disorder is a significant risk factor for anxiety disorders in children. So while you should try to admit your anxieties to your child, you have a line to walk. Along with acknowledging that you sometimes feel anxious, you also need to model how a healthy person deals with anxiety for your child. 

“Kids really are like sponges, absorbing the energy and adopting the behaviors around them,” says Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz of the Childmind Institute. “One of the most helpful things you can do is model calm, confident behavior, particularly while helping a child get ready for school. A child usually starts school no calmer than their least-relaxed parent.”

Managing your child’s anxiety includes ensuring you have a handle on your own. If your anxiety rises to the level that impairs your daily life, getting help for yourself is crucial to keeping your child healthy.

back to school anxiety

Talk and Listen

To make healthy discussions about anxiety a part of your child’s life, they must know they can talk to you about what’s bothering them. Make sure they know they can say anything to you without fear of judgment. And after they’ve opened up to you about their feelings, don’t just respond by telling them how they should feel. Instead, let them know that you are listening, that you’re accepting of them, and that you’re taking them seriously.

Remember the Positives

After living through a years-long pandemic, we all have trouble seeing the bright side. But even if the post-pandemic world is very different from the back-to-school world we remember, attending school still offers our children the positives it always did, and maybe even some new ones.

“As much as we are all craving a return to normalcy, we must reframe our thinking to instead embrace a new normal,” says Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “The world has changed, but with change comes new opportunity. So ask yourself, what are the positives of the new situation you are finding yourself in? How can you create a ‘new normal’ that is even better than the old one?”

Helpful Resources

When seeking additional resources for helping your child cope with back-to-school anxiety or other mental health topics, refer to the United Brain Association website.  We share information about over 250 brain and mental health-related issues, including causes, diagnosis, treatment, and current research topics. In addition, our community members have shared stories about their experiences and those of their children, providing additional insight into health and well-being. 

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