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Back-to-School Jitters or Anxiety? Tips to Help Your Child Cope

School Anxiety

Many parents have difficulty sending their children back to school after summer. Some children seem to have all the reasons in the world not to go to their class. And, these parents start to sense a pattern of illnesses and misbehavior which may force them to keep their children from going to school. If you have a similar experience, then your child might be having school anxiety.

And, while this form of anxiety is common among young children and even high school kids, parents need to know how to handle this problem and help their children continue to learn at school and progress in their academics and social life, and have more opportunities to develop their talents and skills.

how to deal with school anxiety

Causes of School Anxiety

School-age children may be subjected to several factors that interfere with their learning process. Anxiety in school may come from several angles and we should understand what these are. This can be categorized into three main sections: environment, academic, and social stressors.

To be on top of our children’s proper physical, emotional as well as psychological development should be our primary concern. As parents, we can be so compounded with several other issues that at times, we fail to look into what is happening in their daily lives.

This is common when the child reaches school age. We think that since they have gained some degree of independence they can already be left alone and are responsible for their well-being.

We are very wrong in this area. Here are some of the sources of stress in school that are often neglected:
  • Over-scheduling – for some reason, modern-day society has created a whole new pattern that school-age children should fill up their free time with all kinds of extra-curricular activities. Some schools’ standards for ranking students look into the many activities that the child can juggle together with his academic schedule. This leaves the child tired, preoccupied, and sometimes, overwhelmed.
  • Teachers – there is such a thing as a teacher-student mismatch. If the student’s learning style does not match the teacher’s way of teaching, this might result in disagreement. And even if the child is intelligent, his learning capacity is limited by the teacher’s manner of teaching.
  • Bullies – good news for all parents out there. Schools have become more involved in the lives of our children outside the classroom. Although it is not a 100% guarantee that our children will be free from becoming prey to this kind of predator, we can at least have a certain degree of peace of mind knowing that there are “police” on the school grounds watching over the welfare of our kids.
  • Exams – from time immemorial, children have suffered from what is known as test anxiety. Even though they know that they studied and prepared for the exam, they still have these butterflies in their stomach before, during, and after the test.
  • Sleep deprivation – some students are so overworked both in their academics and extra-curricular activities that they lack sleep. It’s as if their day is not enough to accomplish all the tasks given to them. They extend up to wee hours in the morning just to finish homework or a project. The next day, they will come to school tired and lacking sleep faced with an equal amount of tasks to do.
  • Trauma: Students may have experienced a traumatic event in the past, such as abuse or a natural disaster, that is making them afraid to go to school.
The problem of bullying has been around for decades and has been the primary reason why kids develop phobias at school. Another is peer pressure. This also severely affects young minds. Rude remarks from classmates, rejections, inability to find a group of friends, and a feeling of mistrust, these and many others can put a lot of stress on your child.

Teachers with partial treatment of their students can negatively impact children’s experience at school too. When a teacher displays biased treatment among her students it will leave negative feelings toward other kids inside the room who don’t get the same attention. Unfortunately, this may not only create negative feelings but also doubts about their abilities.

How to Help a Child with Anxiety about School

While the causes of school anxiety can’t be avoided totally, there are some things you can do as a parent to help your child deal with anxiety about school:
  • Talk to your child. Experts will tell you that giving enough time to talk to your child and being attentive to her needs can already free her from the stress she finds at school. Be willing to let her know your sympathy for her and that you are prepared to help her solve her concerns at school.
  • Encourage your child to find friends at school. For most children having a friend at school will solve almost everything. They will have someone to talk to within their level and someone whom they can share their feelings with. Offer her a few words of encouragement to find someone at school or in her classroom that she can turn to whenever you’re not around.
  • Don’t give in to your child’s school refusal problems. Don’t forget that it is always a better option to do everything that you can to get them to school every day. Letting her stay at home will only reinforce her school anxiety problems. You have to be firm about schooling. This will add authenticity to your words that school is essential for them.
Although at one look there seems to be nothing that we can do to help it, looking into the overall effect on our child is the first step towards redeeming them from this social slave.

Important: If the student's anxiety is severe or persistent, you must seek the help of a therapist/counselor, or psychiatrist who can provide specialized support, guidance, and treatment.

To motivate students who are afraid to go to school, it is important to understand the root cause of their fear and address it directly. Some strategies that may be helpful include:
  • Building a positive relationship with the student: Creating a positive and supportive relationship with the student can help them feel more comfortable and willing to open up about their fears.
  • Encouraging open and honest communication: Encourage the student to talk about their fears and concerns and listen actively to them.
  • Providing support and resources: Depending on the cause of the student's fear, providing support and resources such as counseling, tutoring, or bullying prevention programs may be helpful.
  • Helping the student set realistic and achievable goals: Help the student to set goals that are realistic and achievable and encourage them to take small steps towards achieving them.
  • Creating a positive and supportive classroom environment: Creating a positive and supportive classroom environment can help students feel more comfortable and willing to participate in class.
It's worth noting that motivating students to go to school can be a complex and ongoing process, it's important to work closely with the student, their family, and other professionals (such as school counselors, psychologists, or social workers) to understand the student's needs and provide appropriate support.

    Read also: Anxiety in Children

Back-to-school - stress and anxiety relief

With school starting now, many families are beginning to feel more and more stress in their lives. Both children and parents will find themselves experiencing added stress with busier schedules, “first-day jitters”, increased demands on their time, and feeling pressured to meet social demands.

While these feelings are perfectly natural for both children and parents, we need to make sure we are keeping our stress levels in check and not letting stress end up making us sick. We need to listen to our bodies for clues that stress is affecting our health. There are several things we can do to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Sleep well - Your mind and body need time to rest and rejuvenate. Getting the right amount of sleep is one of the most important factors in keeping yourself healthy. Most adults require between 6 and 9 hours each night. Everyone is different, though. Over time you will find out what is the right amount for you.
  • Eat right - Your body and mind need a balanced diet. Fruit, vegetables, and protein are the most important. Avoid caffeine, sugar, and excess carbohydrates.
  • Exercise - It is very important to purge your body of the excess residual chemicals that stress creates in your body. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity will do wonders. Try walking, jogging, biking, swimming, or any other activity you enjoy.
  • Relax - You need to incorporate breaks into your day when you can relax. Even just a few minutes of deep breathing, listening to soothing music or a quick walk will do the trick. Yoga, meditation, and massage therapy are also great for relaxation.
  • Me Time - The busier you are the more crucial it is for you to work in some time just for you each day. 15 to 30 minutes a day of doing something you enjoy, whether it is a hobby, chatting with a friend, or going for a walk.
  • Say No - A lot of us tend to think we need to be super-mom or super-dad, taking on way too many responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to say No! Many a time you need to set boundaries and stick to them.

Back-to-School Jitters or Anxiety?

The start of a new school year can bring a mix of emotions for both children and parents. Excitement about new classes and reconnecting with friends is often accompanied by a flutter of nervousness, especially for younger children. However, for some children, these nerves escalate into full-blown anxiety that can manifest as physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches, or even lead to attempts to avoid school altogether.

Understanding Back-to-School Anxiety

This type of anxiety is more than just first-day jitters. It's a significant emotional response that can disrupt a child's ability to function at school.

Some common triggers for back-to-school anxiety:
  • Loss of Routine: The unstructured freedom of summer break can make it difficult to readjust to the regimented schedule of school.
  • Academic Pressure: Children may worry about upcoming tests, challenging classes, or falling behind their peers.
  • Social Concerns: Navigating friendships, dealing with bullies, or feeling like they don't fit in can be a major source of anxiety for children.
  • Fear of the Unknown: New teachers, classrooms, or expectations can be scary, especially for younger children transitioning to a new grade level.

Helping Children Cope with Back-to-School Anxiety

Steps and tips parents and caregivers can take to help children manage back-to-school anxiety:
  • Open Communication: Talk to your child about their worries and anxieties. Listen attentively and validate their feelings.
  • Re-establish Routines: A few days before school starts, get back on a regular sleep schedule and practice waking up at the time they will need to for school.
  • Positive Self-Talk: Help your child challenge negative thoughts and replace them with affirmations and reminders of their strengths.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, and progressive muscle relaxation can help children manage anxiety in the moment.
  • Connect with the Teacher: Talk to your child's teacher about their anxiety. Many teachers have experience helping students adjust and can provide support in the classroom.
It's normal for children to experience some anxiety about going back to school. If your child's anxiety is severe or interferes with their daily life, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in childhood anxiety.

Case Study: Selena and School Anxiety

Selena, a bright and curious 11-year-old, loved learning new things. However, the start of a new school year often filled her with dread. Her stomach would churn, and she'd complain of headaches. These weren't typical "first-day jitters." Selena struggled with school anxiety, particularly around math tests and presentations.

Math class used to be her favorite subject, but test anxiety turned it into a source of stress. The pressure to perform well made her mind go blank, and she often underperformed despite understanding the concepts. Presentations in any subject were even worse. The fear of public speaking caused her palms to sweat and her voice to tremble. This made it difficult to connect with the audience and share her ideas effectively.

Selena's parents noticed her anxiety and decided to help. They talked to her teacher about her struggles and worked with her at home. They focused on creating a calm and supportive environment. They practiced relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises before tests and presentations.

Together, they developed a plan for test-taking strategies. Selena's teacher offered her extra time and allowed her to break down complex problems into smaller steps. For presentations, Selena practiced in front of her parents, receiving feedback and encouragement.

It wasn't easy, but with consistent effort, Selena began to manage her anxiety. She learned that mistakes were a part of learning, and focusing on progress over perfection helped ease the pressure.

This case study is just one example. School anxiety manifests differently in each child, but the key takeaway is that it can be addressed. By working together, parents, teachers, and children can develop strategies to manage anxiety and create a positive learning experience.


School anxiety is a common issue among children and can greatly impact their academic and social success. However, there are ways to help a child with anxiety about school. We need to understand the root cause of the anxiety, whether it is related to academic performance, social interactions, or other factors.

Parents and caregivers can then implement strategies such as creating a positive and supportive home environment, encouraging open communication, and seeking professional help if needed.

With proper support and guidance, children with school anxiety can learn to manage their feelings and achieve their full potential in school.


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