Ways to help your child with back-to-school anxiety
Written by Ritu Guglani with Helen Edwards

Get tips on how to help your child with back-to-school anxiety.

While experts say some anxiety about school is normal, parents should take it seriously and ensure it does not progress and create ongoing mental health issues.

Here are some suggestions:

  1.  Ask your child what’s making them worried. Tell them that it is normal to have concerns. You can also share some of your own general fears to demonstrate this normalcy.
  2. Children feel most comfortable in a private space with your undivided attention. Before bedtime or at the dinner table are also great times for conversation.
  3. Some children like distractions to cut the intensity of their worries, like driving or taking a walk with you.  
  4. Do not tell them “Don’t worry!” or “Everything will be fine!” Instead, encourage your child to problem-solve.  For example, “What could you do if the worst happened and your ‘what-if’ came true?”
  5. Focus on the positive. Encourage your child to redirect attention away from the worries.
  6. Reflect on your own behaviour. Some parents are anxious about handing over care and responsibility of their child to teachers. Children take cues from their parents. The more confidence and comfort you can model, the more your child will relax.
  7. Ask your child, "What are three things that you are most excited about on your first day of school?" Chances are you will be able to remind them of the fun things in school.
  8. You can tell your child, “Being brave does not mean not fearing. Being brave means overcoming while fearing.”
  9. A week before school starts, begin the school-day routine – waking up, eating, and going to bed at regular times. Explain that everyone in the family needs to practice the new schedule, so he or she doesn’t feel alone with these changes.
  10. Anxious children often forget to eat. They don’t feel hungry and don’t get enough sleep. Provide frequent and nutritious snacks for your child to help them cope.
  11. For older children unable to get up and out of bed, give them a ‘big person’ alarm clock and let them practice using it.
  12. Younger children may be nervous about separating so suggest taking a special object to school to remind them of home.
  13. A reassuring note in a child’s lunch can also help ease separation anxiety.
  14. Tell your child’s teacher that they are having some separation anxiety – most teachers know how to handle this.
  15. Most important – praise and reward your child for brave behavior.

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