Anxious feelings are normal and expected in children and teens returning to school. Your anxious child may cling, cry, have temper tantrums, complain of headaches or stomach pains, withdraw, plead or bargain, and become irritable or angry. It may take some time for the anxious feelings to disappear.
Worries are common. Although it is normal for your child to have worries, it is crucial to have your child attend school. It is important they experience all that school offers and learn to cope with their fears. Be sure to communicate with the school and teacher(s) about the anxiety your child may be feeling so they are better able to support your child with their worries and concerns.
5 Steps to Deal with Back-to-School Worries
Step 1 Take care of the basics: Ensure your child is getting enough sleep, eating regular meals and healthy snacks and has daily exercise. When your child's mind and body are nourished, communicating with you and tackling school worries is easier
Step 2 Provide empathy: Listen to your child's concerns. What is s/he worried about? Why does s/he expect that to happen? Let your child share his/her fears and talk about what's on his/her mind.
Step 3 Problem solve: Develop a coping plan. Addressing your child's fear head on, by creating an active plan with concrete solutions, will significantly reduce the worry. For example, "If (the worst) happens, what could you do?" or "Let's think of some ways you could handle that situation."
Step 4 Focus on the positive aspects: Re-direct the worrying and ask your child, "What are three things that you are most excited for this school year?" Celebrate the good things about school. Chances are the fun aspects are simply getting overlooked by repetitive worries.
Step 5 Pay attention to your own behavior: Children take cues from their parents, so the more confidence and calm you can model, the more your child will believe s/he can handle this new hurdle. Be supportive yet firm. For instance say, in a calm tone, say: "I can see that going to school is making you scared, but you still have to go. Tell me what you are worried about, so we can talk about it."