It’s easy to get used to summertime. For kids, this is especially true — due to the absence of school as a daily reality. They are creatures of the moment and, even if they have lots of friends in school, they simply cannot imagine going back. Summer brings its own routines, of course, but rarely is that vacation break as regimented and structured as the school year.
With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that your child gets anxious as the new school year approaches. It’s a stressful transition and many children experience separation anxiety at the mere thought. Fortunately, there are some useful steps you can take to help both of you!
Signs That Your Child Is Anxious About Starting School Again
Anxiety can manifest differently with each child but some universal red flags exist. When it comes to back-to-school time, here are some signs to watch for:
- Unexplained physical issues like fatigue, digestive disturbances, muscle aches, and difficulty sleeping (especially when alone)
- Losing interest in normal activities
- Agitation that leads to family conflict
- Temper tantrums when being asked to separate from parents or caregivers
Do not dismiss these symptoms. Your child is asking for help in the only ways they know how. To follow, we’ll offer some suggestions about how to provide such support.
How To Help Your Anxious Child About Starting School Again
As mentioned above, routines are about to change in a major way. Slowly introduce school-year structures into your home in advance. Set strict bedtimes and wake-up times to normalize that experience. You might even have your kids choose their clothes the night before or plan a to-do list for the next day. If your children have classmates they like but haven’t seen since school ended, set up a couple of play dates to get them back into that comfort zone.
A giant step toward easing anxiety involves test runs. Rehearse the entire dropping-off process. Leave home at the normal time and then replicate their commute. If you walk them to a bus stop, do that. If you drive them to school, do that. Whatever they will be doing five days a week, help them walk through it to get familiar again with the experience. If the school itself is open before the new year begins, see if they’d be allowed to enter and walk around. Do this as often as feels necessary.
Take their worries seriously. Show your child that you’re listening and ready to help. It’s tempting to reassure them with something like “You’ll be fine,” but this doesn’t address how anxious they are. Find out what their concerns are and talk about each of them. Talk to them about times you’ve felt anxious when starting a new job or transitioning from high school to college.
You might be more anxious about the new school year than you realize. If so, your kid senses it. Check on yourself and take self-care steps to manage your stress levels so they don’t become contagious. In addition, carefully monitor how you talk to your child about the upcoming semester. How you word your questions can directly impact how they respond and thus, how they feel. Asking them what they will be learning is much more calming than inquiring if they’re ready for tougher classes.
Get Help If Anxiety Is Not Just About School
The end of summer could be just a trigger. The anxiety your child feels might have deeper roots. If you sense there’s more going on than back-to-school jitters, we should talk. Let’s find out what help your child needs to thrive again with child therapy.