Parenting AdviceKids smiling because they don't have school anxiety

Swift and Sound Tips for Beating Back-to-School Anxiety: Pre-K to High School

Is your kid getting headaches, stomachaches, or not sleeping?


Out of nowhere — just all of a sudden?


This may be a case of….


…. back-to-school anxiety.


Don’t be confused. Back-to-school anxiety is REAL, and it happens at every age level.


In just a moment I’ll give you some easy, practical tips to help your child deal with that anxiety.


BUT FIRST: it’s no use to overthink it.


Back to school anxiety occurs because kids really aren’t sure what to expect as they head back to school.


This is their Y2K moment. They are entering a new school year with new teachers, new curriculum, and maybe even new friends.


So here are my practical tips you can use to assure your child that they will avoid impending disaster and destruction this school year.


For preschoolers:

The worry might come from separation, especially since it may be their first time at school.


  • If it’s possible, let your preschooler see the classroom, meet the teacher, and find some other classmates before school starts.


  • Have your preschooler bring some sort of transitional object with them to school. This could be an object that they are still holding onto such as a teddy bear or a doll.


In elementary school:

Kids may feel nervous about change.


  • Talk it through with your child, help them organize school supplies, and offer some open lines to start a conversation.


  • Help them answer common questions such as, “What did you do this summer? Did you have a good time? Did you swim a lot?”


For middle schoolers:

Much of the stress comes from their social lives and their changing hormones in puberty. This means meeting new people, saying goodbye to old friends or dealing with social media.


  • Talk to your child about the physical (breasts, periods, growth spurts) emotional (hello roller coaster of emotions!) and social (sometimes it’s out with the old and in with the new) changes that are totally normal.


  • Set very clear guidelines, boundaries and consequences of the use of technology. YouTube, social media and group chats are unchartered territory at the start of the year. This generally stresses kids out but they don’t want to admit that to you.


For your high schooler:

The anxiety may be about fitting in, but there is also increased academic pressure.


  • Give perspective to your high schooler. I’ve had kids say things to me like, “Now all my grades matter, now everything I do matters!”  


At all grade-levels:

Kids need a sense of belonging when returning to school. Find a club for whatever they are interested in. I always tell kids: “your people are going to be there!”  


Ultimately, no matter how hard it is for your child to return to school, tell them they need to stay at school. No calling home sick.

Watch my interview with Fox 31 News here.


Sheryl Ziegler, Psy.D. is a Doctor of Psychology who specializes in children and families. She is the author of the upcoming book, Mommy Burnout, How Addressing Yours Will Make You A Better Mother And Create A Better Life For Your Children. Dr. Ziegler is the mother of three children in Denver, Colorado. You can follow her parenting advice in her newsletter by signing up today.

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