Returning to school can be very exciting for children, but for others it can be very anxiety-provoking. Some nervousness and anxiety is normal because children may not know what to expect. This is especially true the younger they are, and if they are in a transitional period (entering kinder, middle school or high school). They may worry about having a new teacher, fitting in class, making friends, understanding new learning objectives, or having higher demands and expectations as they get older. Anxiety can come in the form of having many worry thoughts about school or manifest into headaches, stomachaches, and other physical symptoms (sweaty palms, racing heart, etc.).

  • Ask your children how they feel about their return to school and listen.
  • Avoid being too quick to problem solve and/or dismiss their emotions.
  • Encourage them to face their fears and appease their worries
  • Reassure them they will be successful and can ask for help when they need it
  • Connect them to helpful adults like their teacher and their school counselor
  • Avoid morning disagreements about going to school
  • Prepare your children to transition back into a routine (sleep hygiene, decreasing screen time, etc.)
  • Set expectations regarding school attendance and answer questions they have

When to be Concerned:

  • Your child is asking to stay home and avoiding school
  • Your child is having learning difficulties
  • Your child is getting bullied or feels unsafe
  • Your child is having daily anxiety for most of the day and has regular physical ailments
  • Your child’s worries are not going away
  • Your child is having a hard time making friends

What to Do:

  • Talk to your child’s principal, teacher, and school counselor about your concerns
  • Consult your child’s pediatrician to determine a cause for any physical symptoms outside of anxiety
  • Continue talking to your child about how their day went at school and any concerns they have
  • Create a designated time and approach to having an open and safe place to talk about their daily school problems. Examples:
    • Establish a structured family dinner time and eat together
    • High-Low Game—every member names a High (happy or good moment) in their day and a Low (difficult, sad moment)
    • Give your child time to decompress from school and a good, bonding moment

Written by: Dr. Gabriela Nunez, Psy.D.

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