Helping your child through back-to-school nerves

September 3, 2021 • Lewis Goldsbury

After a jam-packed summer of activities, the return to school may have crept up in your calendar. The beginning of September brings the first-day-of-school-nerves to some children.

In the weeks building up to the big day, your child’s back-to-school anxiety may have been brewing. Whether your child is worried about meeting their new teacher or has new school nerves as they transition to high school, it’s important to be on hand to support them.

No one wants to see their child upset and uncomfortable, so we are here to share some tips on how to deal with back-to-school anxiety.

Signs of back-to-school anxiety

First, it’s important to detect those first-day-of-school-nerves. Anxiety can manifest itself in a huge number of ways, but here are a few behavioural changes that might be worth looking out for:

  • Being more clingy than normal
  • Being restless and fidgety
  • Expressing worries or negative thoughts
  • Getting angry or upset quickly
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Having spells of unexplained crying
  • Complaining of stomach ache and feeling unwell
  • Not eating properly
  • Not sleeping, or waking in the night with bad dreams

You know your child better than anyone, so you may easily pick up on these shifts in temperament. It is so important for us to stress that these changes could also be signs of other medical conditions, so always seek medical advice if you are concerned about your child’s wellbeing.

How to talk to your child about their back-to-school anxiety

It can be difficult to speak to your child about their worries, especially if they’re getting angry or upset quickly. They may try to shut you down. Try to pick a good time to talk to your child when they’re not in an emotional state. During a car journey or walk is a safe bet if your child is calm and in a space without distractions.

Listen and show understanding

Simply listening to your child’s worries and showing understanding is a great positive step to supporting them with their back-to-school nerves.

In the past, you may have dismissed your child’s concerns by saying, ‘There’s nothing to worry about, you’ll be fine once you’re there’. We don’t think about the impact of these words, but a small comment like this could perhaps prevent your child from confiding in you.

Instead, try showing empathy with phrases such as, ‘I can see that you’re nervous about going back to school. But I believe in you and I will help you to get through it’. This simple change to your own behaviour can make a big difference, as your child may be more likely to open up.

Simulate the school day

In the few weeks leading up to the start of school, begin the transition to your school routine. This includes wake-up times, bedtimes and mealtimes.

Give your child control by letting them choose what to eat for breakfast (of course within reason!). This will give them a sense of excitement and, especially if they are moving up to big school, make them feel grown up and ready to face anything.

A good way of battling those back-to-school nerves is to remove as much uncertainty as possible. There are lots of little actions you can take, such as driving past the school when you are out. If your child needs to catch a bus to school, take a couple of journeys there and back so that they are familiar with the route.

If your child hasn’t received their schedule yet, you could try emailing the school to ask for it. You could also ask to come in with your child prior to the first day so that they can find their classrooms and key areas like the canteen and library.

Get everything in order ahead of time

Try to organise as much as you can ahead of the first day back to school. This includes packing your child’s backpack with the correct supplies and having their lunch prepared. To save yourself even more time on the first day, try our easy school lunch box hacks.

Having everything in order saves stress in the morning – no scrambling around to find their water bottles and textbooks! If you are less stressed and show a calm demeanour, this should put your child at ease. By gaining that extra time in the morning, you can deal with possible tantrums and avoidance tactics whilst still making it to school on time.

Benefit from healthy living

Some signs of anxiety include poor sleep and eating habits. Sorting out these simple lifestyle habits can have a knock-on effect and boost your child’s mood. Make sure that the whole family is eating a balanced diet so that your kids are more open to eating healthy foods. A good breakfast is especially important to set your child up for a great day at school as it improves brain function and the ability to focus.

Try to have calm evenings so that your child has time to settle and have a good night’s sleep. Get into a healthy nighttime routine that includes activities away from the screen, such as reading.

Ask for support

Your child is not alone with their back-to-school anxiety. Children get first-day-of-school-nerves every year for a range of reasons. If you can, arrange a playdate with your child and a classmate a few weeks before school starts. This way, your child will be excited to meet up with their friends again, and it could help their classmate with any potential nerves too.

This is also a great chance for you to get support. Talking to other parents about their back-to-school worries and successes will make you feel less isolated, and you could gain even more tips from them!

It’s also helpful to get the school involved if you’re extra concerned about your child’s nerves. Your child’s teacher may be able to set up a zoom meeting with them to put them at ease ahead of their first day.

Remember that you know your child best, if you’re worried about how they’re coping it’s always best to seek advice from an expert such as your GP or your child’s school. You can also find some great tips, help and advice over on the YoungMinds website.

You may have some back-to-school anxiety of your own; are you worried about keeping up to date with the latest technology to help your child’s studies? Do you want to make sure they have what they need to get the best night’s sleep possible? Here at Fair for You, we can help take some of the strain with our range of tech and children’s bedroom furniture. Shop now or contact us for more information.

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