5 Easy Tips to Ease Back to School Anxiety
Most of us thrive on routine. In fact, studies have shown that daily routines have significant mental health benefits, ranging from decreasing stress, to lessening symptoms of behavior disorders, or even reducing the chances of substance abuse. Unfortunately, summer—although fun and relaxing—is often filled with vacations, lax schedules and irregular sleep patterns. Add in the element of unknown that the upcoming school year brings and it’s a recipe for increased stress and anxiety. Luckily, there are plenty of tips for both kids and caregivers to help ease worries and set the stage for a successful school year.
5 Tips for Easing Back to School Anxiety and Stress
- Determine New Schedules
A new school year can often mean new start and end times, new bus schedules, as well as new activities. Caregivers should start planning early to determine how new school schedules will work within the family’s overall schedule. Do the start and end times of school days align with work schedules? Will you need before or after school care? Will kids need rides to or from activities? Getting a jump start on can help you think through all the scheduling needs, potential concerns, and line up any required support.Tip: Don’t take everything on alone—ask for help. Whether it’s family support, friends, other parents or tapping into school services, dividing, and conquering is the key to keeping the stress of scheduling under control.
- Get Organized
You’ve received your schedules and purchased the school supplies… now what? With assignments, announcements and other information often distributed digitally on multiple different platforms, finding the best system can be a tough task even for the most organized person. The first step is to know how you and your child work best. You may do better writing things down on a wall calendar to keep everything straight. But your kids may prefer online calendars, apps or personal assistants like Alexa or Google to set tasks, reminders, and appointments. Once you determine your styles you can find the best (and often multiple) ways for everyone to keep their schedules and studies straight and organized – whether it’s digital, analog – or a combination! Tip: It takes 21 days to form a new habit, and the same goes for a routine. If you set and stick to a new organization plan for three weeks, there’s a good chance you’ll stick to it for the rest of the school year… and beyond.
- Focus on Sleep
Forgetfulness. Difficulty concentrating. Hyperactivity. Impulsiveness. These are behaviors commonly associated with ADHD… but did you know that they can also simply be signs of lack of sleep? With back-to-school season in full swing, it’s more important than ever to set up a healthy sleep schedule to ensure that the whole family has a seamless transition from the summer to the school year. Tip: Start adjusting bedtimes a few weeks before school begins, if possible. If you can’t ease back into modified bedtimes, adding a new calming bedtime routine can help. Limit digital screentime before bed, take a bath with calming essential oils, or try reading a book to help you get some much-needed rest.
- Talk it Out
It may sound overly simple, but sometimes just expressing your feelings and concerns can relieve stress. Kids often struggle with transitions and change because it’s a big unknown. Breaking down the big worry (CHANGE) into smaller, more manageable parts (How will I get to school? What will I wear? Who will be my teacher? Will I have friends in class?) as well as getting their thoughts and buy-in on new organizational plans and bedtimes, can help ease their anxieties (and ultimately yours too). Tip: Back to school anxiety and jitters can be normal, but there are some signs to look for that can alert you to a more serious problem that warrants professional attention.
If a child’s fears or anxiety are so often or so intense that they can’t participate or enjoy typical activities – or if the anxiety symptoms last beyond the first few weeks of the school year, it’s a good idea to set an appointment for an early childhood mental health consultation or youth mental health services.
You can also look for additional signs, such as difficulty getting along with others, avoiding normal activities or physical symptoms like stomachaches, which can be clues that your child is struggling and should be evaluated by a professional.
Regina Underdown, OhioGuidestone School Consultant
- Reconnect Physically and Emotionally
Likely you and your kids are not alone in feeling anxious about the new school year — so are other peers and parents. For that reason, most schools offer open house opportunities prior to the start of the year. This is a great way to physically get your child acquainted with their school environment. They can visit their classrooms, rehearse their daily routine, ask about supplies needed and where to store them – or anything else that could be weighing on anyone’s mind. It can also offer an opportunity to meet with teachers, administrators, or guidance counselors to build a rapport with adults they can turn to with questions or concerns during the school day.In addition to visiting the school, help your kids reconnect with classmates (or for you their parents and caregivers) that you may have lost touch with over the summer. Not only will this help rekindle friendships, but it can also offer a peer to talk about any worries they may have. And while you’re there, you might want to chat with their parents too!
Tip: Don’t assume you know what they’re worried about – ask them! You might be surprised or never guessed what was making them anxious about back to school. Plus, frequent worries, such as ‘How will I open my locker combination?’ ‘How will I find my classroom?’ or ‘What is for lunch?’ can easily be relieved by doing some research or practice run-throughs.
You’re Not Alone
With these few tips, hopefully you’ll enjoy a back-to-school season with reduced worries and anxieties. But if you or your child is struggling, know that you’re not alone. OhioGuidestone offers a wealth of mental health and counseling services — from early childhood to youth to adult that can get you and your family on the path to success.