Kids’ Anxiety About Returning to School

1 September 2021

In children it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between excitement and anxiety. This time of year it will probably center around school. It can be returning to a full school room after remote learning, transitioning to middle or high school, changing schools, or Covid related.

Generally it is a fear of the unknown like making friends or will they be able to open their locker. Previous encounters with bullies may bring on fears of having to deal with this issue all over again. Some kids have image issues and worry about not having the right clothes or supplies, weight issues, braces. Overachievers can worry about not getting the right classes or difficult teachers.

Children may not be able to verbalize their anxieties and you should be on the alert for behavior changes like:

  • Becoming more clingy
  • Restlessness
  • Stomachaches
  • Eating or sleeping changes
  • Unexplained crying

If left untreated, performance in school can falter, friendships can deteriorate, and even lead to depression. With age, these symptoms can lead to substance abuses.

As a parent dealing with these issues can be difficult. What may seem trivial to you can be monumental to a child. A good tactic is to listen without judgment and validate feelings. Sometimes just venting will help the child cope. Active listening and encouragement should help. Assure them that they are not alone. Sometimes other kids’ actions are the result of the same trepidation your child is feeling. Speak with the teacher(s).

As much as possible try to be present for your child, especially in the first few weeks. If your work arrangements will allow it, be home when your child returns from school in the afternoon. If that is not possible, consider a trusted friend or relative. With today’s electronics, Portal or Facetime can connect your child with a grandparent or non-custodial parent. If you are a stay-at-home parent (remotely working or not) put other tasks aside and spend some time over snacks discussing what went right during the day or answering questions.

Be sure your whole family gets proper sleep and a balanced diet. Lay out clothes for the next day to help the morning chaos move a little easier. Exercise can help everyone burn off some excess energy or frustration and help cope. Allow for differences. No two persons are the same. Some may prefer a quiet stroll to playing sports, or need time to read or make entries into a diary. Choose the stress relievers that work.

Understand when it is time for some outside help. Start with the school counselor and check out other resources.

No one said parenting would be easy.


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