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How To Deal With Back-to-School Anxiety


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Back-to-school doesn’t just mean back to class. It also means back to new subjects, new homework, new teachers, and new classmates.

Changes and uncertainties can lead to students feeling anxious as September draws near. Many students report feeling anxiety during back-to-school—in fact, over 8% of students suffer from some type of diagnosed anxiety disorder.

Much of this anxiety stems from not feeling in control of what will happen in the new school year. Everything seems out of the student’s control—such as what class they’ll be in or how hard upcoming schoolwork will be.

The good news is that coping with back-to-school anxiety is possible with the right game plan. The solution is to identify what’s causing the anxiety and addressing it directly.

Common Signs Of Back-To-School Anxiety

Students are often embarrassed by back-to-school anxiety. This makes them less likely to bring it up with parents, and difficult for parents to notice that there’s a problem in the first place.

Here are some common red flags to look for:

  • Child is quiet, not engaging in conversation
  • Child is asking a lot of questions about school—both big and inconsequential
  • Child is resistant to eating, doesn’t have a large appetite
  • Child is less eager to take part in sports, games, and normal activities

Is your child showing any of these warning signs? If the answer is “yes”, read on to learn how to deal with back-to-school anxiety.

Coping with Back-to-School Anxiety: 3 Types of Anxiety & Solutions For Each

Academic Anxiety

Academic anxiety includes the fear of failing in school, and not meeting parents’ or teachers’ expectations. Here are common concerns that lead to academic anxiety:

  • Not remembering skills from last year
  • Struggling with new topics
  • Making time for homework
  • Freezing on tests and exams
How to deal with back-to-school academic anxiety:

The solution to this type of back-to-school anxiety is to help your child feel in control of school performance. Help him or her establish good habits early on that lead to ongoing success. Some effective ways to help your child include:

  • Review major tests and notes from last year’s classes 1-2 weeks before the school year starts
  • Write down 3 academic challenges your child faced last year, and come up with the steps to tackle them this year
  • Create your child’s structured homework schedule—and make sure he or she sticks to it all year long!
  • Use an agenda

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can have a major effect on how your child feels both inside and outside of class. Much of how children perform in school depends on social skills. If your child suffers from social anxiety, it’s important to address this each new school year. Social anxiety during the back-to-school season commonly stems from:

  • The fear of not fitting in with new students in a new class
  • Not understanding a new teacher’s expectations
  • Being separated from existing friends and peers
How to deal with back-to-school social anxiety:

The solution is to introduce small steps into your child’s school year that will help improve social skills and confidence. Helpful steps to take include:

  • Before the start of the year, make a list of what excites your child about returning to school—including friends, classes, and hobbies
  • Make a first-week back plan so your child feels in control of his or her new environment—include outfits, lunches, and extracurricular activities
  • Plan for your child to see a friend before the school year starts—this way he or she can relate with someone else going through the same thing

Future-Driven Anxiety

This type of anxiety stems from students setting goals, but not being sure how to achieve them. High school students regularly experience this as they prepare for college or university. Specific concerns include:

  • Not choosing the right classes for college admission requirements
  • Not attaining the right grade average for college or university requirements
  • Not staying on honor roll or not meeting requirements for scholarships
How to deal with back-to-school future-driven anxiety:

The solution to this type of anxiety is to make the next steps very clear for your child for how he or she can set and meet these goals. Follow these steps:

  • Break a big goal down into a series of smaller goals to achieve throughout the year
  • Develop a back-up plan—make any roadblocks less scary by developing a backup plan that your child is confident about
  • Celebrate the small wins to keep your child motivated all year long

Dealing With Back-To-School Anxiety—It Is Possible!

Back-to-school is a stressful time for many students and parents. It’s full of many unknowns and “what ifs,” which leads to anxiety year-after-year.

Overcome this anxiety by addressing these unknowns head-on with your child before the start of school. Help him or her realize that it is possible to stay in control of these situations and to enjoy the new school year!

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