Help Ease Back to School Anxiety

Back to school time is just around the corner! We know that this time of year can bring with it a lot of excitement and anticipation (for both parents and children ūüėČ), but it can also come with a lot of stress and anxiety for many children.

We want our children to have a positive experience as they begin the adventure of a new school year, so we asked our Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Helen Aoki, to give us some tips for parents to help their children feel confident going back to school:

1. Maintain good schedules with sleep and waking
¬† ¬† ¬†Don’t wait until school starts to move bedtimes back. Most school-aged children need 9-11 hours
     of sleep per night, and older adolescents need 8-9 hours.

2. Normalize anxiety before school starts
¬† ¬† ¬†Help your children understand that it’s normal to feel nervous before starting something new, and
     that many of their friends and classmates will be feeling the same way. Anxiety usually gets better
     after your child has had time to adjust and get used to the new school year.

3. Praise the ability to be brave and go to school despite feeling anxious
¬† ¬† ¬†Always praise the behavior you want to see in your children. Say things like “I’m so proud of you
¬† ¬† ¬†for going to school, even though it makes you anxious.”

4. Teach basic relaxation skills
     Have your child try deep breathing 5 times or squeeze and relax hands 5 times before leaving for
     school; or when feeling anxious while at school. Focus on being calm and brave, and not on being
     anxious.

5. Focus on a positive thought
¬† ¬† ¬†Have your child repeat out loud, or in their mind, positive and encouraging thoughts like “I can
¬† ¬† ¬†do this” or “I won’t always be this anxious for school.” Do this instead of repeatedly having
¬† ¬† ¬†thoughts like “I hate school!”

6. Know when to seek additional help
     If your child experiences continually worsening anxiety, has frequent physical symptoms of
¬† ¬† ¬†anxiety or is regularly unable to stay at school, seek additional help. Contact your child’s primary
     care physician or talk to a school counselor to get more help and resources to help you child feel
     comfortable and confident going to school.

For more information on getting your children’s school year started off on the right foot, visit:¬†The AAP’s Back to School Tips

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