As the school year approaches, many children are feeling a range of emotions from excitement to anxiety. In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 8 children aged between 5 and 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, with a further 3 in 10 reporting two or more mental health issues. It is no surprise, then, that back-to-school anxiety is a real concern amongst young people.
There are many factors that could contribute to anxious feelings surrounding their return to school, such as attending a new school, the fear of not fitting in, changes in routine or social circle, or the pressure to perform academically. As you prepare your child for the transition from holiday to school, it’s important to manage any feelings of overwhelm to ensure they’re able to start the school year feeling confident and ready to learn.
If your child is feeling anxious about the start of the school year, there are a few things you can do to help them manage their anxieties and ease into the year.
1. Talk to Your Child
Openly discussing your child’s concerns about returning to school can help to alleviate their anxiety. It’s important to listen to your child’s worries and respond with empathy and understanding. Try asking them questions about what they are feeling and why, and try to reassure them that they are not alone.
2. Establish a Routine
Having a set routine can help to reduce anxiety by providing a sense of structure, comfort and security. This could include getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, as well as setting aside time for meals, homework and other activities. It can help to start establishing this routine before the school year starts so that its well embedded by the time the first day rolls around.
3. Consider External Help
If your child’s anxiety is affecting their daily life, it could help to seek professional support. In the UK, children can access free mental health care through the NHS, or there are a range of private services available, as well as local youth counselling groups. You can always start by visiting your GP and moving forward from there. Be sure to discuss these options with your child to see what they’re most comfortable with.
4. Encourage Physical Activity
Physical activity can have a positive effect on your child’s mental health and overall wellbeing, helping to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Encourage your child to take part in activities, such as sports or dancing – it’s important that whatever the activity, it’s one that they enjoy! Physical activities can also help children who struggle to sleep.
5. Be a Beacon of Positivity
As your child’s primary role model and carer, it’s important to try and remain positive when talking to them about their return to school. Try to focus on the positive aspects, such as seeing friends and learning new things, rather than the negatives.
6. Connect With the School
If your child is feeling anxious about attending a new school, it can be a good idea to reach out to the school to introduce yourself and your child. This can help to ease the transition and make them feel more comfortable. It might even help to take a drive to the new school premises a couple days before school starts to help your child feel more comfortable and familiar ahead of arriving on the first day.
7. Get Organised
Organising school materials such as uniforms, stationery, books and equipment in advance is a good way to ease your child into their return to school. It can also help to alleviate some of the anxieties associated with starting a new school. Being organised and ensuring nothing is left to the last minute can help your child to feel prepared and with less to worry about. It might even help your child to feel inspired. Back-to-school anxiety can be a difficult issue to manage, but with the right support, your child can start the school year with confidence. By taking the time to talk to your child, helping them to establish a healthy routine and get organised ahead of time, you can help to reduce their anxieties and ensure they have a successful school year.