The relaxing days of summer break will soon be coming to an end. The thought of beginning a
new school year can be overwhelming, which can bring about feelings of anxiety and stress.
This can be caused by a variety of reasons: change of routines, concern with making new
friends, will they like their teachers, will they remember their schedule, etc. All of these are
valid concerns for children. We as parents and guardians need to know how to help them
navigate these feelings and implement strategies to overcome them.
Children, oftentimes, will not express their feelings. Their anxiety, fear, or stress will manifest,
consciously or unconsciously, with different symptoms, such as, headaches, tummy aches,
feeling tired, irritability, struggling to concentrate, or changes in their sleeping or eating habits.
It is important to acknowledge their symptoms and talk to your child about their feelings and
what is causing them to worry. Sometimes this is all they need to start feeling better.
Another way to help alleviate some stress is to begin their new school routine 1-2 weeks before
school starts. Set a regular bedtime that will allow them to get their recommended 10-12 hours
of sleep per night. Laying out their clothes the night before will generally help to decrease the
likelihood of any meltdowns in the morning. Planning out breakfast and lunch ideas before the
week begins will offer your child some control and accountability in their schedule. Designating
a spot for their lunchbox to return to after school will help establish a routine.
It is also helpful, and fun for some, to organize their school supplies for classes. This will help
them to stay organized and bring a sense of calm to them knowing that everything has a place.
Also establishing a comfortable homework area, as well as a place for important paperwork
that needs to be addressed will help alleviate any stress and/or frustration. This will help ensure that your days run smoothly. Don’t forget to schedule in some downtime after school before they begin their homework.
As stated previously, getting the correct amount of sleep is essential to the health of your child,
but that isn’t it. It is imperative that your child maintains a healthy diet, drinks enough water,
and exercises daily to help reduce stress and anxiety. Eating a well-balanced breakfast is
important for brain function, mood, and the ability to focus and pay attention in school.
According to Dr. Shimi Kang, “Parents should teach their children deep, controlled breathing as
an important tool to reduce stress, one that can be done in any life situation. This simple,
underutilized technique makes it impossible to have high anxiety and panic.”
Knowing what to do and where to go will also likely help your child feel more comfortable. You
can walk/drive the route that your child will take to school a few times prior to the new school
year. This will help them to become familiar with it and ease any anxieties they may have. If
your school offers an orientation night, it is highly recommended they attend. This will allow
them to familiarize themselves with the school and their schedules. If your child is older, be
sure to walk the route of their classes. Also, assure them that all the other students are in the
same situation and that the teachers understand how nervous the students can be.
Set a Positive, Optimistic Tone
According to Psychology Today, “The most important thing you can do to ease back-to-school
worries is to share your confidence in your child’s ability to cope. If you are calmly optimistic
that your child will manage the back-to-school transition, it makes it easier for your child to be
hopeful, too.” Remind your child what makes going to school great and what they can look
forward to, such as seeing their friends or making new ones, the knowledge they will gain, the
playground, etc. Dr. Kang suggests that “While coping skills for stress can be partly taught, kids also need to experience problems. Parents should act ‘as a guide, not a director’ and elicit solutions.” Do not try to fix everything, some adversity is okay.
Despite our best efforts, we cannot avoid stress in our lives or our children’s lives. However, we
can set an example of how to effectively cope with stress and help them to become resilient
and face adversity with courage and confidence. Be kind, patient, and present.