8 Strategies to Ease Back to School Anxiety

Back to school in person is finally happening this year. Many of our children have been online for schooling and being back in the classroom can create a sense of anxiety. All anxiety stems from the perception of loss of control. By implementing a few simple strategies, we can help our children feel more in control and turn back to school into a fun experience!

Strategies:

1. Start by implementing healthy life habits. 

– Make sure that children have a regular routine that includes a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, protein and carbs.

– At least two weeks prior to back to school, try to match the bedtime routine that you implement during the school year.

– I can’t stress this enough…make sure children get LOTS of physical activity! Movement is key to a child’s health and well-being.

– Balance movement with moments of calm and mindfulness. Teaching children from a young age to sit in stillness is a wonderful skill and life habit that helps them connect to themselves.

2. Validate your child’s emotions.

Validation is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. When a child doesn’t feel heard, they will repeat the same fear over and over again. For instance instead of saying: “Don’t worry you’ll be ok, school is fun!” Say: “I hear that you are anxious about being back in school with a big group of friends. Let’s find a strategy to help you feel safe”.

3. Don’t mistaken excitement for anxiety.

Sometimes bodily sensations for excitement are very similar to the sensations of anxiousness. Help your child differentiate the both by questioning them about the sensations. You can help them clarify what is happening.

4. Safety is an important component when it comes to decreasing anxiety.

Get in the habit of telling your children that they are safe.

This brings me to the next point:

5. Front load your child with information.

Front loading means providing your child with information to help them “walk through” their back to school. This can be done with a social story or simply letting them know what to expect the first day of school. You can also plan a meeting the week before with their new teacher or a walkthrough of the school and play ground. The more they are prepared, the more they feel in control. The key is to figure out how much is too much info and also how long before school starts do you start presenting this information so that they don’t create even more anxiety.

6. Create a plan together for back to school.

What can your child do if they feel anxious? Provide strategies that they can use. For instance, they can tell their teacher or they can find the friend that they feel close to at recess and ask them to play.

7. Plan a fun after school activity for the first week of back to school.

This will give children something to look forward to and create a fun incentive to go back to school.

8. Give your child the gift of a little piece of you at school!

You can make a bracelet or necklace together that they can rub if they feel anxious. You can also place empowering notes in their backpacks. Use the ones we provided! Or write a little love note on a napkin to put in their lunch box.

Once your child comes home from their first day of school, praise them for what went right, validate any feeling that comes up and help them find strategies for a better tomorrow! 

The uncertainty of transitions are a normal part of life. However, by validating your child’s feelings and front loading them with a plan, they are sure to have a successful return to school!

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Hi, I 'm Nancy

I’m an Occupational Therapist (OT) with more than 18 years of experience and whose greatest passion is working with children of all abilities. 

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