By: Brittany Keim, MS.
Summer break is necessary for many reasons, but going back school after weeks of time off can be difficult.Educators, parents, and students alike can feel the pressure of what it means to start a new school year. There are countless questions and unknowns when August comes around the corner. Students begin to have questions such as, “Who will my teacher be?” and “Who will I sit next to at lunch?” These questions are normal, but they begin to consume our minds and unfortunately, take our attention away from the remaining weeks of summer. This time of year is undoubtedly challenging for any student, but it can be equally as hard for parents to support their children who experience back to school anxiety.
Here are some tips to keep in mind during this back-to-school season:
- Assure your child that is okay to not have all the answers right away
Sadly, we can never have all the answers to our questions. It is important to normalize your child’s back to school anxiety by letting your child know that they are not alone and by telling your child that is it okay to feel this way. The nervous butterflies that they are experiencing in their stomach are normal! Remind your child that some uncertainty is good. Uncertainty can often lead to some of the best surprises.
- Take off some of the pressure your child may be experiencing
Getting back into the rhythm of things can be hard. After all, a summer off from schoolwork can make us rusty when it comes to taking that first test or handing in that first book report. Children often have high expectations for themselves. I mean, who wouldn’t want straight A’s? However, it is difficult to be our very best self at the beginning of the year. Help your child manage their expectations and remind them that good things take time. In the beginning of the year, just getting through the day or the week should be good enough.
- Help your child establish a routine in the days leading up to school
The new school year can feel far out of your child’s control. Help your child achieve a sense of control by assisting them in creating a back-to-school routine. It will be useful to start thinking about an appropriate bedtime and how long it will take your child to get ready in the morning. Summertime gives us the luxury of going to bed later and sleeping in, but it is extremely
important for your child to get about 8-10 hours of sleep each night so that they are refreshed and prepared to learn this year’s class materials. It can be helpful to practice your child’s new routine a couple of times so that they can go into that first day of school feeling like a pro!
- Identify a few safe people at school that they can go to for help
There are many school staff members that can be of assistance and there should be no shame in asking for help. Asking for help assists us in learning! It can be beneficial to ask your child to identify 1-2 people that they can go to if they need support at school. The school nurse or guidance counselor are great options and can be excellent resources at the beginning of the year.
- Take advantage of special events that your child’s school may offer
Your child’s school knows that this can be a hard time of the year. Knowing this, schools often offer a “Get to Know Your Teacher” event before school starts. Even though you and your child may not want to be reminded of school, it is important to go to events like these so that your child can have exposure to their new teacher, classroom, building, etc. If your child’s school does not offer an event like this, there is no harm in asking the main office or your child’s teacher if you and your child can visit the school before their first day. Teachers and school staff want to make sure your child is comfortable too!
- Make this time of year fun
The start of a school year can be viewed as a time of excitement as well. There are countless possibilities at the beginning of a school year. A new year can be indicative of new friendships, knowledge, interests, and hobbies. Also, who doesn’t love to pick out their new backpack, colored pencils, and pens? Use back to school shopping as a way to make your child excited to start this new journey.
- Lean on other parents, friends, and professionals for support
You are not alone in worrying about your child. It is normal to want to do everything in your power to make them feel excited, confident, and prepared for that first day of school. Take advantage of your support system during this time. If your child is struggling with anxiety about returning to school or if they are experiencing anxiety about anything else, please reach out to a therapist like myself at The Center. I’d be happy to support you and be part of your team!