How To Handle Back To School Anxiety

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Dear “And You Will Have Kids”:

It’s only the beginning of August and my son is already anxious about going back to school.  There are no major changes in his school situation: he’ll be in the same school as last year and he’ll probably have many of the same classmates.  I’m at a loss as to how to help him.

Any suggestions?

Momma K


Dear “Momma K”:

It’s common for kids to have some anxiety about the start of school after summer vacation or extended breaks from school.   Although your son may not have to deal with many changes in his school situations(you say he’ll be in the same school with the same classmates), going back to school is still a change from his summer routine.  A change in routine can cause anxiety in some children.

It’s important to talk with your son about his anxiety.  Does he have any specific concerns or is he just anxious about the start of school.   If he has specific concerns, you can address those issues and help to minimize his anxiety.  For example, when my daughter started middle school this past year, one of her big anxieties was her locker lock!  She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to get her locker opened quickly and that she’d be late to class.  I bought her a lock so that she could practice at home before the start of school.  That helped to lessen her fears.

Most schools have an orientation day before school starts.  If possible, plan on attending that event with your child.  If you have your child’s schedule, walk through each day.  This should also help lessen your child’s anxiety.  If you can, meet each teacher and introduce yourself.  Look at the books and ask about the topics that will be studied during the year.  Let your child look to see where his desk will be and who will be in the class with him. 

Before orientation, ask your child to list questions for each teacher.  For example, your child may want to know if any large projects will be due during the year, or he may want to know the types of things that he’ll be learning through out the year. 

If you can’t attend the orientation due to work, see if you can schedule an orientation in the evening or when you have time off.  Most schools are accommodating if you ask.

For most children, this should be enough to lessen their anxiety.  If your child has increasing amounts of anxiety, or if your child presents physical symptoms like vomiting or sleeplessness as a result of his anxiety, you may wish to speak to your pediatrician.


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