Inside: 6 powerful ways to tame back to school anxiety, how to help your child with school jitters, plus FREE lunchbox notes, and a free sweet first day of school tradition idea and printable.
Back to school time can generate an entire ocean of emotions.
Kids often feel scared, worried or anxious.
Back to school anxiety is no joke for your kids.
Starting school after a long lazy summer can feel a bit like bobbing in the wavy ocean, all alone, in a tiny tube, without any land in sight.
Kid’s can feel alone, lost and like no one in the world can help them.
I’m guessing you feel helpless too, right? It sucks seeing our kiddos upset.
And it’s true, oftentimes we can’t help our kids once they are amidst the waves. But we can help them navigate their way to shore, safely. We can be their liferaft helping them keep afloat, even when they feel like they’re gasping for air.
So with the school year quickly approaching, (please don’t smack me. #truthhurts) I’m going to give you 6 powerful ways to tame back to school anxiety.
Before you move on, be sure to sign up for our FREE 12 Mini Mindfulness Exercises for Kids. Our printables are designed to teach kids growth mindset, mindfulness, confidence, and much more. Click below to make sure you’re on the list! Once signed up, you will also gain access to our entire library of free printables!
Table of Contents
- Back to School Anxiety
- 6 Ways to Tame Back to School Anxiety
- Preparation for Back to School (To Avoid Back To School Anxiety)
Back to School Anxiety
As parents, it’s easy to assume that kids are over the moon excited about going back to school.
Freshly sharpened pencils, new notebooks, bright and fun supplies.
(I’d be jumping up and down, with just the delicious smells…)
But this isn’t reality.
“Having a grown-up lean down and say, “How exciting, you’re starting school soon! Can be similar to telling an adult they’re going to be scaling Mt. Everest next week!” Joan Munson, PhD, author and psychologist.
Back to school can be a BIG source of anxiety as kids ponder questions such as:
- Who will my teachers be?
- Will I make any friends?
- I’m going to have to do homework? Really!?
- Are my clothes ok?
- Who will I sit with at lunch?
- Will my friends be in my class?
And if your child is starting kindergarten, well, that’s an entire other choppy ocean.
(Starting high-school is particularly anxiety-inducing too…)
While some anxiety and back to school jitters are normal, child psychologist Courtney Keeton reminds parents:
“If a child’s anxiety is causing a great deal of distress in her or his daily life, or if getting along with family members or friends becomes difficult, normal activities in and outside of school are avoided, or there are physical symptoms like stomach aches or fatigues, these ‘red flags’ indicate that the child’s anxiety should be evaluated by a child psychologies or psychiatrist.”
So in other words, be sure to seek professional help if need be.
When you purchase this Anxiety Kit for Kids, you’ll help your kids calm down, make better choices, and learn positive coping strategies. This is the PERFECT resource (70+ PAGES) for children ages 3 to 10 who suffer from anxiety, anger, or BIG emotions.
6 Ways to Tame Back to School Anxiety
When dealing with back to school anxiety always start here:
1. Start with the basics – Sleep, Eat, Exercise
Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating regular healthy meals and getting daily exercise.
This will ease anxiety in and of itself.
For two weeks before the first day of school, ensure your child is going to bed at the same time each and every night. This is very important.
2. Let Kids Know It’s Okay to Worry – Validation
Let kids know jitters and fears are okay and perfectly normal, and that it’s okay to be nervous or scared.
Remind them that these feelings will pass. They won’t feel this way forever.
Be empathetic and ask questions to try and understand the root of their fears.
Why not tell your kiddo about your own fears and worries when you were in school.
Kids love hearing about tales from our childhood. My son always looks at me in amazement thinking of me as a child. It’s one of the few times I can get him to listen.
Be sure to work on identifying very specific fears.
Perhaps he/she is worried about making friends? Being away from you? That they’ll get stuck with a mean teacher?
I often read social stories with my son (he’s five). I don’t know if you’ve ever used social stories, but they are a great way for kids to learn different skills.
It helps kiddos visualize different options in situations. For example, we often read a social story about asking friends how to play. This helps him set a plan to deal with his specific worries.
You could also read any of our posts on helping your kiddo deal with anxiety. This one is a favorite, Anxiety in Children – The Ultimate Guide for Helping Your Child Cop
Also, check out Mighty Mindful Kids from Mindfulmazing for other fun and easy ways to boost confidence, develop positive thinking, and reduce anxiety in kids.
Many parents use the positive thinking mantra’s included in Mighty Mindful Kids to re-frame negative thoughts into positive ones.
3. Develop a plan of action
This bridges us into our next point. Now that you know what’s wrong, set a plan.
For example: If your worst-case scenario comes true… have a plan ready to spring into action. Example: you have no one to sit with at lunch, what could you do?
Perhaps you could rehearse how to ask a friend in the morning if they would like to sit with you? Emphasize that other kids feel scared too, just like you. You could even focus on the fact that it’s okay to be by ourselves. Teach confidence and independence early.
Go over all your kiddo’s worries and set little plans, even rehearse the scenes.
4. Focus on the positive
We need to teach our kids how to re-frame negative thoughts to positive ones.
Negative thoughts snowball and this is what leads to that anxious feeling (we can all relate).
But if we teach our kids how to re-frame, this will help them tackle their back to school anxiety AND help them ALL through-out their life.
Negative thoughts turned to positive thoughts:
You get the picture. This is a very helpful cognitive-behavioral strategy to ease anxiety and worries.
Check out these bright, fun, and engaging gratitude worksheets for kids. This AMAZING set includes a gratitude journal and lots of awesome gratitude activities for kids that will help your little one foster an attitude of gratitude today! Get ’em here!
5. Take a look in the mirror
What’s your mindset like?
Are you anxious?
Your child could be feeding off of your energy. Kids are like sponges and they often absorb how you are feeling.
Try to calm down.
These are great options to help with your own mindset.
6. Be Available
Try to stay connected with your child during this transition.
Some fun ideas are:
- Give them a stone to carry in their pocket. Anytime they feel nervous they can rub the stone.
- Put a photo of your family in their backpack.
- Send a favorite stuffy to school.
- Use lunch box notes
- Remind them of exactly when they will see you again.
Having your loving presence nearby will help them feel safe and secure.
Create a first day of school thoughtful tradition. Slip this note (this is a high-quality printable PDF, grab it here) into your kiddos lunch bag and include a kindness rock in the envelope or make your own thoughtful note.
Preparation for Back to School (To Avoid Back To School Anxiety)
- Arrange play-dates with classmates before the summer ends.
- Ask your child to help meal plan lunches for the first week.
- Go back to school shopping together.
- On the morning of, prepare a special breakfast to make the morning more fun.
- Start preparing kids two weeks before the first day of school for the transition.
- Set a realistic bedtime and start getting dressed each morning the week before to prepare. Routine charts will be your new best friend.
- Visit the school beforehand and practice your drop off.
- Let your child play on the play equipment at the school.
- Set up a end of day reward, something your child can look forward too.
- Create a sound and stress-free morning routine
- Enroll in Crystal Paine’s makeoveryourmornings 14-day course. It’s a wonderful course to get your morning routine running top ship.
Finally, check out our free lunch box cards with 18 free printables to slip into your child’s lunchbox each day.
And if you love lunch box notes as much as I do, check out these amazing PREMIUM lunch box cards, a HUGE bundle with 100 cards to keep you inspiring your kiddo for months to come.
Also, be sure to visit our epic guide for awesome kids lunchboxes and rad supplies to take your lunches from boring to blast-off!
I hope these back to school anxiety tips will have you smooth sailing into the new school year. Please comment below on what’s working for you, and any other ideas to add to this list!
Tina Williamson is the writer and founder of Mindfulmazing, a peaceful parenting blog that guides busy moms and dads to tune into what matters most, and, ultimately, create a happy life! Tina shares strategies and advice for raising responsible, mindful, and resilient kids.
In 2019, Tina created the popular eBook, “Mighty Mindful Kids,” a mindfulness activity book that helps kids with focus, emotional regulation, awareness, and connection. This helped so many families (including her own) that she created several printable resources for parents, teachers, and therapists.
Stay tuned for Tina’s Amazing Me Growth Mindset Journal for Kids being published in the spring of 2021.