Whitmore Bolles School Social Worker

Dearborn Public Schools

How to Cope with Back-to-School Anxiety

on September 11, 2018

The start of a new school year can create anxiety for children of all ages. Your child’s anxiety may manifest itself in a number of ways, including delaying her bedtime routine, avoiding goodbyes in the morning, or physical responses like stomachaches. Here are a few suggestions to ease your child’s transition into the school year.  

  1. Ask your child how she feels about returning to school and what is making her feel that way. Is she nervous about making friends? Scared that she will get lost? Or mad that she has to leave her toys and games at home? Talk through these feelings to develop a better understanding of what is on your child’s mind.  
  2. Let your child know that it is normal to be nervous about school and that her peers are likely nervous as well. Ask her what it feels like to be nervous. Does she get butterflies in her stomach? Do her hands shake? Does her heart begin to beat faster? Share how you feel when you’re nervous and discuss what scenario last made you nervous. Explain what you did to manage your anxiety.
  3. Create a morning routine to say your goodbyes. Take time at home to talk through what your commute to school will look like. For instance, “We’ll leave home at 8:15am and walk to school together. When we get to the fence we’ll give each other a hug for five seconds and a kiss. Then you’ll enter the school building by yourself. I’ll stay by the fence to wave goodbye. After I wave goodbye I’ll turn around and walk home.”
  4. Role play at home so your child can get a better feel for the routine. Practice coping mechanisms like taking five deep breaths before saying goodbye or hugging while counting to ten. Find what works best for your child.
  5. Reinforce your child’s brave behavior with praise and remind her that, with practice, saying goodbye and going to class will get easier.

If your child continues to struggle with school-based anxiety, talk to her teacher or the school social worker. We can help develop a plan to better fit your child’s needs.

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