How to Ease Back-to-School Anxiety and Start the School Year with a Bang!

The school year is fast approaching (and for many has already begun), and with that can come a lot of anxiety. Throw in a national pandemic, and you can assume that many moms, dads, and kiddos are really feeling the nerves.

This is my daughter, Cambri’s, second year of preschool, and although it’s juuuust preschool, to us, that’s a huge deal. She will be in a new classroom, with new kiddos, learning things that, to her, are new and incredibly confusing. Everything will feel new and scary to her. Add on the fact that her teachers will be wearing masks, making seeing their bright smiles next to impossible, and you’re basically asking for a full blown freak-out the morning I drop her off.

We want to avoid that meltdown at all costs and are planning on implementing several things to help ease her (and in turn my) anxiety of starting school. Some of these are a “first day of school” type of thing, and others can be implemented anytime throughout the year when your kiddo is feeling the jitters.

  1. Have a Practice Run- Starting a new routine, and change in general, is scary for many kids. By having a practice run several days to a week before actually starting, the new routine will feel, well, less scary. If possible, set your alarm when they will normally have to wake up, get them breakfast per usual, dressed and backpack on, and out the door all in your allotted morning routine time. Take a drive to school and look at where you’ll drop your child off in the pick up line, or if they’ll be riding a bus, where that drop off is. Since most schools probably won’t let you inside the building, continue that practice at home by making sure they can take off their own backpack and jacket, etc. Really help them feel comfortable with this new routine. If your child will be packing their lunch, make sure they know how to open their own juice boxes, chip bags, and so forth. Small things can turn into big things when they’re already really nervous. Try to keep those small things from happening if possible.
  2. Give Your Child Small Choices- We all know how independent a lot of kids like to be. Take away the morning-of power struggle by allowing the kids to pick their own outfits, breakfast, etc. I am a control freak, so if you’re like me and can’t give them FULL range, provide options. Let your kiddo pick between two outfits you already put together. Ask if they want eggs or oatmeal for breakfast. They don’t have a say in whether or not they go to school, so give them a say in other things that help make the experience fun and exciting. You can even start this before school. When getting supplies, let your child pick out their backpack, pencil holder, style of pencils, or folders (some of this may not be possible by what individual classes are asking for, but do your best!). This will make heading to class that much more fun.
  3. Read a First Day of School Book- Leading up to the first day of school, pick out a book (or several) that talk about the first day of school. They even make some grade specific books, so those are always a fun option too! By reading about characters in a similar situation as them, they’ll see how fun and exciting school is, but in many cases, also learn how their favorite characters handle their nerves.
  4. Special Mom & Me Item- This is something I have heard of many moms doing, and something we are planning to do with Cambri this year. For us, we are going to get a special bracelet that we can both wear while she is at school. When she is feeling anxious, or missing me, she can touch her bracelet and know that I am always there with her, and furthermore, in just a few short hours, I will be back. I’ve also heard of moms and kiddos decorating a special pebble to keep in their pocket, or keeping a family photo in their pencil box. You can use whatever would help put your child’s mind at ease that you’re always there.

While my child is able to attend school in person, we also know many kiddos that have opted to do virtual learning, or schools that are simply making all students attend virtually until further notice. This adds it’s own set of challenges and anxieties.

This is an unprecedented time, with many obstacles, we as parents, as well as our students and their teachers have never had to deal with. I had the chance to speak with several teachers and school counselors on how to help those kiddos deal with their anxiety of the unknown with virtual learning.

  1. Create a Routine- Much like in-person learning, virtual learning will also thrive when there is a routine in place. Designate a specific area in your house just for “school time.” Online learning may have different expectations, so don’t necessarily expect your kiddos to be in their “classroom” for six hours straight. They should know, however, that this designated space is specifically for school and not video games, or other distractions.
  2. Set “Break” Activities- Activities like video games and television can break your child’s focus and add to their anxiety or frustrations when they get busy with school again. Instead, implement a break that is beneficial. Maybe it is some sort of exercise, a snack time, or coloring. One of my favorite resources is Go Noodle. It’s a free online site that gives your child “brain breaks” to help them regain their focus for the next activity.
  3. Get Social- Many parents are worried about their child’s social development and health with online schooling. If you’re comfortable as a parent getting together with a small, set group of people to get some “social” time, do so! Extra curricular activities are especially important right now if you’re able to participate. If not, encourage your child to call a friend or write a letter. Keep those relationships thriving even though they may not be able to see each other face-to-face.

As a whole, whether you’re attending school in-person, or virtually, it’s important to ask our kiddos what is making them anxious. It may be small things we can easily fix, or large things we can’t possibly have an answer to, but there’s no way to know unless we ask them.

It’s equally important to recognize and remember that our children feed off of us. If we are anxious for the school year and speak negative words about the year, our children will very likely feel the same way. It’s OK for us to be worried as parents, but try your best to stay positive around your impressionable child.

Also remember, right now things are changing weekly, and even daily. Be prepared for change and have a game plan in place for discussing those changes with your kids. This is new to all of us. By going into the year knowing things may change, but also recognizing that we determine our outlook to them, your child, and you, can absolutely have an amazing school year!

What are some ways you’re keeping the anxiety low, and excitement high heading into the school year? Let me know in the comments!

All my love,

Chelsi

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