Back-to-school anxiety

Every September, the new school term can bring about mixed feelings for students and parents alike. Whether it’s the first day at primary school, the transition up to secondary school or going off to college or university it can be an anxious time for everyone.

Some are excited to finally be back in class and meet up with their friends again, while other students feel worried and anxious about starting a new school year.

Parents of young children naturally worry when their 5-year-old walks through those school gates for the first time. Very often it’s the parents who get stressed about handing them over to the teacher, they think about them all day, hoping there were no tears, no problems! The day seems to drag and they constantly look at the clock! They get to the school for pick up at least 20 minutes early, just in case!! But most of the time fears fade away as soon as they see the smiles on those little faces and listen to them talking ten-to-the-dozen about their wonderful teacher and the new friends they made.

For pupils starting at a new secondary school, it can be a little different. Some will be really excited to be moving on, but others will be full of fear and dread. This might cause sleepless nights, moodiness or other anxiety symptoms. Friendships that were formed in a previous school might have changed leaving a feeling of loneliness.

The thought of navigating around a bigger school, moving from lesson to lesson can seem really daunting. For pupils who lack confidence, suffer phobias or anxiety and maybe struggle in larger group settings, the mere thought of starting in a senior school can have a huge negative impact.

But it’s not just about our children. Parents can go through every emotion, fear and worry on behalf of their child. They worry about bullying, will they make friends, will they fit in, will they be happy, will they be able to handle the work, will they ask for help. So many thoughts can run through their minds, even more so if they didn’t enjoy school themselves.

The good news is that there are ways to work through these feelings of uncertainty and put things in place to help make sure our children are happy and confident in school, no matter what their age. By doing this we will automatically ease our own feelings of anxiety.

Firstly, It’s vitally important to remember that every child is different and may need different things to help them feel supported and more confident about their experience at school. Here are just a few tips to help with the transition from the summer break to the return to the classroom:

  • Talk to your children, but more importantly, listen to them. Find out how they are feeling/coping. Let them know that you are on their side and you understand.
  • Reassure them that they are not the only ones who feel anxious, there will always be others who are feeling just like they do.
  • Help them to find ways to manage their anxiety – Grounding Techniques are a great distraction for parents just as much as children. You might also like to try our But Luckily Technique.
  • Discus and focus on the advantages of returning to school: Meeting up with old friends, Learning new things ….
  • Set a new routine. Routines are a comfort to young and old. It only takes a few days to get into the swing of things and put a new pattern in place. Start setting the alarm and getting up a few days before to make things easier on the day itself.
  • Be prepared. Make sure you have everything in place to start the new term.
  • Lessen first-day anxiety by arranging to meet with a friend(s) and plan to go together.
  • The day before you go back have a full practice run. Get up at the set time (giving yourselves plenty of time, there is nothing like the pressure of rushing around to create unneeded stress). Have a balanced breakfast and get washed and dressed. Just running through the routine will break everyone back into the swing of things gently.
  • Encourage your child to join any clubs in school – this can result in new friendships being formed whilst building self-esteem and confidence. In turn, you could join the PTFA which shows that you are investing time and energy into the school.
  • Parents/carers also need to talk. Chat with other mums/dads/grandparents etc. Get to know the teachers, ask for advice and take an interest in homework (even if you don’t understand it, it’s never too late to learn!).

Our behaviour has a big impact on our children. If we face things with confidence, our children are more likely to follow suit. Our youngsters learn from the example we set and this can happen without us even noticing! So don’t be afraid of explaining you also have challenges to face in life, but more importantly, help them look for ways of focusing on finding solutions.

More reading: Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence



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