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Easing Back to School Stress

little schoolboy with curly hair on the background of a group of children classmates holding a sign with the inscription "back to school."Both children and parents likely experience some back to school anxiety or stress. It’s a busy time filled with many uncertainties. Parents can more easily find information and enlist help when stress gets intense; however, remember that children do not have the same access. Whether your child is returning to the same school or moving on to the next, there are many variables at play.

Anxiety in children includes trouble sleeping, sadness when separating from parents or siblings, and behavioral changes such as tantrums, shyness, and worrying. In addition, your child may exhibit stress by increased physical complaints (stomach ache, headache, etc.) and asking repeated worried questions.

The following tips will help ease the back-to-school process:

  1. Acknowledge worries: Instead of sweeping your child’s fears under the rug, accept and recognize their concerns. Set an intention to praise your child for pushing forward and being brave.
  2. Practice the schedule: Instead of waiting until school starts to return to strict bedtimes and early mornings, mimic this process one to two weeks before school actually starts. Give you and your child time to adjust to the new routine of early mornings.
  3. Visit the school: To ease fears and uncertainties, arrange a visit to the school. Go with your child and check out their classroom locations. Do a dry run of their class schedule so they will not be worried about finding their way.
  4. Arrange visits with friends: Summer can seem like forever, especially for children of working parents. Your kids may not have seen their school friends in some time, so plan activities or play dates for your kids to get reacquainted with their friends and classmates.
  5. Prepare the night before: Look for ways to organize for school the night before including baths/showers, laying out clothes, and meal prepping.
  6. Practice mindfulness: When your child’s anxiety is manifesting, show your children how to combat it through mindful moments of deep breathing. Meditative breathing phone apps can help your children focus on and count the length of their inhales/exhales, which helps ease anxiety.

While these practices are a good start, not all children will be able to cope with their stress on their own. If your child’s stress or anxiety starts to interfere with their normal daily activities, including fun activities like sports, lessons, and playtime, then it may be time to enlist help from a medical professional. Pediatricians and school guidance counselors represent a good place to start.