The back-to-school season can be a stressful time for families. The transition from enjoying beach days in the sun to the daily routine of school can trigger some anxiety.
“I see a range of emotions from kids near the back-to-school season,” says Jen Wojciechowski, a clinical child psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Behavioral Hospital. “Some are excited and some are uncertain about going back.”
According to Wojciechowski, there are various reasons why a child might feel stressed about heading back to school, including:
- Transitioning to a new school
- Negative school experiences in the past
- New academic expectations
- A recent trauma or loss
To relieve anxious feelings for parents and kids before and during the new school year, Wojciechowski offers some advice:
1. Create a structured routine.Develop a daily school schedule and practice it ahead of time so as not to “shock the system.” By doing so, expectations are set and children learn about any changes beforehand.
2. Familiarize your child with their school setting.Try to visit a new school ahead of time and attend any orientation that is offered. Children often feel less stressed when they are familiar with their surroundings. Learning the layout of the school is a great way of tapping into the school’s resources and identifying where and who to go to in the event help is needed.
3. Talk to your child about starting school.Ask them how they are feeling about the start of a new school year and encourage them to talk about any fears or emotions they are experiencing. Promote positivity and reassure your child that his or her feelings are normal.
4. Be mindful of significant behavior changes.
Behavior changes during the first few weeks of school can be common. However, it is crucial to seek out a mental health professional if your child experiences persistent challenges, including aggressive behaviors, noticeable changes in sleep patterns, significant changes in appetite, feeling more isolated, earning lower grades or having less enjoyment in hobbies. For younger children, parents should also be mindful of a child’s complaints of frequent gastrointestinal issues, which may signal anxious feelings.
Find more stories about children’s health — including how to manage food allergies and screen time, combat bullying and keep young athletes safe — in the Children’s Health section of Sharp Health News.