Michigan Child Counseling: Handling Back-To-School Anxiety

back to school anxiety

Is your child worried about going back to school? Some kids get excited about seeing their friends and advancing to a new grade, but many other kids in Michigan experience intense anxiety about entering a new environment. If your child has been behaving oddly over the last few weeks, it may be the result of back to school anxiety. The tips below will help you get through the anxiety and onto exciting scholastic endeavors.

Attend The Open House At School

If your child’s school has an open house, make sure you and your child go to it. This gives you a chance to see where your child will be learning, and it will give your child a chance to meet his classmates, make new friends, and get re-acquainted with old friends. Think about the anxiety you feel when starting a new job. By touring the work place and meeting people that you’ll be working with, you can feel a little more comfortable in the new environment. The open house at your child’s school provides him or her with the same opportunity.

Also keep in mind that attending the open house will allow you to talk to your child’s teacher. In our recent post about preparing Metro Detroit students for academic success, we discussed the opportunities open houses provide for parents when preparing their children for the upcoming academic year. You can learn helpful techniques to continue your child’s education at home, and you can see what subjects your child may need help in over the next few months. If your school does not have an open house, see if you can schedule a time to meet with the teacher before school starts to learn this vital information.

Set Up Play Dates

If you meet other parents at the open house, you may consider scheduling a few play dates for your child before school starts. Having a friend to bond with at school will help curb your child’s anxiety. Some Metro Detroit schools have lists of contact information so parents can stay in touch with one another (email addresses, Facebook names, phone numbers, etc.). You could use and participate in that list so you can stay connected with other parents from the school. Their children may be facing back to school anxiety just like yours.

Establish A School-Like Schedule

Don’t wait until the last minute to get your child in “school mode.” A couple weeks before school starts, you should put him or her on a schedule similar to what he or she will experience at school. This includes an early bed time, an early wake-up time, and meals/snacks during the parts of the day he or she will most likely eat on a school day. The idea here is to get your child in a routine. Sudden changes can trigger anxiety for anyone – not just children. Easing into a school schedule will give your child one less thing to stress about.

Have A Practice School Day

Practice makes perfect, right? You might as well apply that principle to your child’s back-to-school experience. This is especially true for young children who have never gone to school before. Here are some different tasks you could try on your practice day:

  • Getting up and ready in the morning. Wake your child up early and make sure he or she gets dressed, brushes his or her teeth, eats breakfast, etc. This will also help you gauge how long it will take your child to get ready in the morning, in case you have to set up an earlier wake-up time.
  • Have lunch in a cafeteria. If this is the first year that your child will be eating in the cafeteria, give him or her a chance to practice at it. Go to a buffet restaurant and teach your child how to carry a tray, walk through the line, etc. That way he or she can eat lunch at school with confidence.
  • Work on the computer. Most classrooms in Metro Detroit now have computers in them for children to learn on. If not, they have computer labs that children visit a few times a week for lessons. Practice working on the computer with your child, even if it is something as simple as learning how to move the mouse around or how to click on an icon on the screen. These are skills your child may need in school.
  • Ride on a bus. Use public transportation to teach your child how to behave on a bus. Teach him or her to stay seated, hold his or her backpack in place, maintain a quiet voice, etc. You may also want to drive around on your child’s bus route to teach him or her about the stops along the way.
  • Go to the library. Pick out a few books to bring home and read with your child before school starts. You could also consider reading the books in the library to show your child how to be quiet in the building.

You can ask your child’s teacher about other ways you can prepare him or her for the day-to-day routine of school, and that will make your child all the more confident when the big day actually comes around.

Make School Exciting

Children thrive on reward systems. If you can make school seem like a reward instead of a chore, your child will be more excited to attend. Talk about all the great things your child gets to do at school, like crafts, recess, music lessons, or anything else that your child enjoys. If your child is not thrilled about school itself, you may set up rewards that he or she can earn while in school. For instance, if your child has good behavior all week long, you could give him or her more TV time on the weekend. If your child gets good grades every quarter, you may rewards him or her with a trip to the movies. The setup is entirely up to you, but it could be all the motivation your kid needs to get over his or her back to school anxiety.

Listen To Your Child’s Concerns And Address Them

Why does your child feel nervous about the first day of school? What is sparking his or her childhood anxiety? Is it riding the bus, making new friends, being away from home…? Talk to your child about why he or she is feeling anxious, and do what you can to address the concerns that come up. For example, if your child is worried about being away from you, you can explain that you will be able to spend every night together after you get home.

If you are having trouble identifying the cause of your child’s anxiety, you may consider reaching out to a child counselor like the ones we have here at Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers. They are trained to notice signs of anxiety, childhood depression, low self-esteem, and much more. The counselor will help your child get through whatever struggles he or she is facing, and you can learn valuable lessons for at-home care. Get the tools you need to help your child succeed, and he or she is sure to have a great year in school.