Back-to-school anxiety tips

The beginning of the school year should be an exciting time, but it can be stressful for kids and lead to anxiety. These tips can help make the transition easier.

Worries are common

It’s normal for your child to feel anxious during times of change, especially if they are starting school. They may worry about things like whether they’ll like their teacher or whether any of their friends will be in their class. Do not be tempted to let them miss school; they’ll miss school work, but more importantly, valuable opportunities to practise social skills and develop friendships.

Look after the basics

Nobody copes well when they are tired or hungry. Anxious children often forget to eat, don’t feel hungry, and don’t get enough sleep. Make sure their lunchbox meals are nutritious. Also stick to their regular routines, including bedtime and eating schedules.

Give them a little of you

Most children find saying goodbye to you traumatic. One way of lessening this, is to give them a way to hold onto you during the day, for example, a paper heart with a love note, a ‘special’ pebble or shell you found on the beach together – anything that they can hold onto for assurance that you will be back and are thinking of them.

Pay attention to your own behaviour

It’s normal to feel anxious when handing over care and responsibility of your children to teachers. Remember, our children can sense our moods. Be confident, supportive, yet firm when saying goodbye in the morning. Do not reward their tantrums to allow them to avoid going to school.

Communicate regularly

Ask them what they like and don’t like about school, their teachers and school friends. Avoid asking ‘how was school’ – it doesn’t encourage conversation. Rather ask direct questions, like ‘tell me about story time’, or ‘tell me about the book you borrowed from the library’.


Often role-playing a certain situation with your child can help them feel more confident that they’ll be able to handle the situation. For example, let them play the part of the bullying classmate. Then, act out appropriate responses and coping techniques.

Be patient

Adjusting to a new school and new friends will take some time. Give your child the chance to settle in. If, however, your child is really struggling, constantly cries and complains of lack of friends, contact the teacher immediately. Explain that they don’t seem to have settled in yet, and ask if the teacher can please keep an eye on your child and make a special effort so they can feel more comfortable.

Read more: Helping your anxious child

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