It’s That Time Again! 5 ways to ease the stress of returning to school

by Becky Bergthold, LPC, RPT


We’re fast approaching that time of back to school shopping for clothes, school supplies, backpacks, and the list goes on.  Our focus shifts from summer fun to starting school again.  Many children experience symptoms of anxiety as they prepare to return back to school such as having stomach aches, difficulty sleeping, irritability, decreased appetite, and increased meltdowns.  As parents, here are some ways you can ease your child’s anxiety at this time of transition into the school year.


Validate their feelings


Acknowledge and reflect your child’s feelings of anxiety. When you validate their feelings, and they see that you understand, this will help them to feel more calm and safe.  Telling them “don’t worry” doesn’t help.  Don’t dismiss their feelings, but normalize them and help them see that many kids feel worried when school starts. 


Stay calm and positive


One of the best things you can do as a parent is to have a calm and positive attitude about your child returning to school.  If you appear stressed and anxious, your child will feel more anxious.  Parent’s attitudes and feelings strongly influence their child’s, so focus on the positive and exciting things about starting school.  Balance out the worries with the good things such as seeing their friends again or resuming favorite sports or activities.  


If you’re feeling extra stressed, remember that some self-care can make a big difference.  It’s important to take care of yourself and manage your own stress in a healthy way in order to care for your children.   


Establish and maintain a routine


You may have relaxed over the summer with your child’s schedule, but it’s time to get back into an earlier bedtime routine.  Prepare for the schedule they will have when school starts, and it will be a smoother transition with less exhaustion and fewer meltdowns. 


You can create a schedule or checklist for the mornings with your child to help them remember what to do and how to stay on track. This reduces stress when getting off to school in the mornings.  


Give them choices


Children feel less anxious when they feel they have some control in their lives.  Giving them choices about small things can help them feel less stressed about returning to school.  Let them choose their outfit for the first day of school and what they want to bring for lunch (within reason J.) 

You can also help your child prepare a plan for any specific worries or situations they will be facing.  Listening to them and brainstorming ideas will give them a sense of control and calm their fears.  A trip to the school to see their classroom and meet their teacher will help them know what to expect. 


Have fun!


Create some fun traditions for the end of summer and beginning of the school year.  Have a special dinner, family activity, or craft project to celebrate this exciting time each year in a positive way.   Just spending time together and having fun helps children feel less worried and anxious.


So as you approach the end of summer and busily prepare for a new school year, you can ease the stress of going back to school and even have some fun in the process!