As parents, caregivers, or guardians, the aspect of going back to school is often exciting. There are school supplies to shop for, new outfits to pick out, fresh backpacks to buy, and more. While this can be exciting for students, too, anxiety often rears its ugly head. Once everything is bought and organized, students are left with nothing else to do but worry about the first day of school. The closer students get to the first day, the more anxiety they often feel. There are simple things parents, caregivers, and/or guardians can do to minimize the anxiety students feel about going back to school.
1. Take the Student's Worries Seriously
Make sure to validate the child’s feelings. In addition, provide them with opportunities to talk about what is upsetting them. Ask open-ended, nonjudgmental questions.
2. Talk About What to Do When Things Won't Go As Planned
For example, talk with the student about what will happen if they start to fall behind or miss an assignment. Make sure they know it is not the end of the world. Advise them to talk to the teacher about getting back on track. In addition, let them know that turning in something is better than turning in nothing at all. I tell my own kids this! Some credit is better than no credit.
3. Be Realistic About Challenges Children May Face
Be realistic about challenges children may face. Kids who have struggled with school in the past or who have mental health issues may experience more anxiety about going back to school. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the child’s struggle and not gloss over it. If there is something going on the school should be made aware of, communicate with the school or teacher appropriately. These past struggles can provide a roadmap for future successes.
There is no such thing as an anxiety-free school year; however, using the steps above can help minimize the anxiousness and equip your student with ways to handle it throughout the year. Remember to be there for the student in your life! Every day won’t be a great day, but knowing there is someone in their corner can make.
This blog post was written by Gretchen Brosseau-Mayhood, teacher at Nexus-Indian Oaks’ Safe Harbor School.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.