How To Manage Back-To-School Anxiety

I really hated the night before the first day of school. Each year, from kindergarten through 12th grade, I’d lie awake, sick to my stomach, wondering what the new classroom would look like if I would have any friends, what the new routine would be, and whether I would like it. In fact, just thinking about it now has me feeling a little sick to my stomach.

What’s really crazy is that I really loved school. Honestly, I had no issue letting the summer go and getting back to a steady routine. I loved math, reading, writing, and social studies, and really hated P.E. Yet, my expectations and the uncertainty of that first day of school brought out my feelings of anxiety like nothing else could.

Tip: Grab this Back-to-School Contract to help you lay out expectations and keep everyone (moderately) anxiety-free this year! Find yours HERE.

How To Manage Back-To-School Anxiety

I’ve been a mom for a while now. In fact, I have one daughter entering middle school this year, and another entering 4th grade. As I look back on my own experience, I’ve constructed some ways to help alleviate the anxiety as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Back-To-School Events

There’s always an eye-roll and a groan from someone (mostly me) when it comes to back-to-school events. Typically, it’s because I really am not ready to let the summer go, but often it’s the idea of leaving the house at the same time we normally plan for dinner and our bedtime routine. But I digress.

The thing about back-to-school events is that they allow for your child to not only familiarize themselves with their classroom (typically), a new teacher, and the peers that will be joining them for the next school year. It sets them at ease a bit when they see familiar people from the year before and means that when they walk into the school on their first day, someone’s face, even if it’s only the secretary, will look familiar.

Make sure that, if you get the opportunity, you help your child navigate the hallways from the front door to the classroom and point out the bathrooms and the lunchroom along the way. If you have time, show them the library, art room, or band room. It may assist in increasing their excitement for the new school year.

Meet/Contact the Teacher

Back-to-school (open house) nights typically allow for some teacher contact, but if that’s not the case with your school, reach out to the teacher personally. In this day and age of instant contact via email, I suggest sending an email with a few questions from your student. Ask things such as what they envision the homework to look like, class schedule details, and anything else that might calm the nerves of your student. Keep in mind that teachers love summer break as much as you do (or maybe more!!) so don’t expect a response until closer to the school start date. In fact, it might be as close as the day before school starts, when they return for teacher preparation days.

If you get the chance to ask these questions in person, all the better. Make sure your student gets to ask what they want to know because their questions might be different than yours. (For example, my oldest typically asks if they will be allowed to have a snack time. Seriously, folks, it’s the important things that matter.)

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice the tasks that your child will need to know when they show up at school on the first day. At the kindergarten level that might include tying their shoes, stepping up the stairs to the bus, or taking some time away from mom and dad.

As your kids get closer to middle school, and lockers are involved, have your child practice unlocking a similar type of lock. The combination may be different, but no child wants to be standing in the middle of the hallway with a ton of friends around that she is trying to impress, only to be uncertain how to unlock her locker. Practice, and when she’s under pressure to get it right, it will come naturally.

Make Connections

If your kids aren’t regularly around the same kids they go to school with, I suggest making a time to get one or two of their classmates together for a late summer reunion. Not only do they get the chance to discuss all the things they’ve missed with each other while they’ve been separated, but they also get to voice their excitement and concerns for the following school year.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to facilitate the conversation on back-to-school topics, they will be excited to spill their guts with their friends and before the day is over, everyone will be excited (and hopefully, not nervous) about heading back to their school social life.

Begin Early

Begin your back-to-school sleeping schedule a couple of weeks before school begins. Not only does this allow your child’s brain to be rested and ready for the new adventure ahead, but if, like me, they spend the night before the first day of school lying awake in worry, they will have had several nights of good sleep before that date.

If your child is going to use an alarm, allow them to start doing this now so they can be prepared for what it sounds like and making the effort to get themselves out of bed, dressed, and ready to complete whatever their morning routine calls for.

Become Familiar

Think of any other ways your child might be nervous about the first day of school. In our case, it’s leaving a neighborhood school to attend a school about 20 minutes away. My daughter is naturally worried that we are going to be late for everything, and school is no exception. In order to quash her fears, we will be practicing a couple of drives to school for the purpose of making sure we have the right timing.

Of course, it’s only appropriate to do so at the time of day that she would normally be traveling (aka rush hour), and while I don’t necessarily want to give up my summer mornings for a seemingly unnecessary ride to school, she will be much less anxious if we do so.

Perhaps you don’t drive your child to school but need to practice the morning routine in order to make sure they make it to the bus on time. Or, maybe they walk to school and need to practice that a couple of times.

These practice runs might seem inconvenient now, but you’ll be thanking yourself come the first day of school. Trust me, I know.

They Might be Nervous Anyway

In the end, you can set them up for success, and your child (like I was) might be a nervous wreck anyway. Simply make sure that they get to bed early enough the day before, that their clothes are laid out, the backpack is packed, and they know what they are eating for lunch. A big hug and a pat on the back just might be all the encouragement that they need to brave the whole new world of the new school year.

…and if it all fails terribly and they come home in tears, do what my mom did and offer them a cookie or a bowl of ice cream and know that Day 2 is always easier.

Have a wonderful day!

Tip: Grab this Back-to-School Contract to help you lay out expectations and keep everyone (moderately) anxiety-free this year! Find yours HERE.