Updated by Ashley Crowe (September 3, 2021)
Back to school can be a time of both stress and excitement. Some kids look forward to meeting new friends. But for others, this may be a source of major anxiety. Growing up is tricky and full of awkward social situations. Add in the pressure to perform well in school and sports and it’s easy to see how your child may be feeling stressed.
Learning skills to manage stress now will help your child for many years to come. Here are a few ways you can help your child feel more secure, prepared, and excited for the new school year.
6 Ways to help your child manage back to school stress
Talk it out
This may seem counterintuitive, but one way to deal with the anxiety of back to school is to name it, talk about it, and address it head on. If your child says they’re worried, find out why. Dig into their specific fears and concerns.
These worries may be something small that you can address with some reassuring words. Or they may just need to talk it out. If they are bigger worries, then you have the information you need to seek out more help.
As the school year continues, be sure to check-in. Sometimes we find ways to continue on with our days, but the anxieties linger. School is such a large part of their day. With your ongoing support, they can create positive memories and experiences as they learn and grow.
Create new traditions
Plan a memorable way to mark their first day, or start a new Friday tradition to end each week on a high note. Even something simple, like a favorite snack at the end of a long week, can bring a little extra fun to their day.
Looking for some inspiration? Give these easy and fun ideas a try!
- Friday night movie and popcorn
- Ice cream study sessions before a big test
- Once a week family baking days for creating special lunchbox treats
- New colorful shoelaces to mark the beginning of each semester
- Thursday night pizza and crafting party
- Special lunchbox notes (think silly limericks or after school scavenger hunt clues)
Bonus tip — don’t tie these special moments to achievements. A great test score or report card can certainly be celebrated, but be sure to have weekly or monthly traditions that happen no matter their grades. These moments will help keep their motivation high during their harder days.
Stick to a routine
It can be tough to keep early bedtimes during the long days of summer. But if your kids are waking up at 7 am or earlier for school, then you need to be sure they are catching enough sleep.
Having a daily routine helps your child settle into the back to school groove. With a regular waking time, meal time, and bedtime, your child will know what to expect and be able to plan their homework and extracurriculars accordingly. Getting back in the school day rhythm will keep everyone's stress low and the kids well-rested.
Make time to relax
The school day is long. Add in schoolwork or band practice and there’s little time for anything else. If you find that your family is always on the go, sit down and map out a schedule for your days. Then find some time to just do nothing.
This downtime can be spent with any relaxing activity. And that goes for you too! Watch a movie, play a game, garden, read, or color. It doesn’t need to always be the same activity. Anything that recharges their battery is game.
Take the pressure off and give everyone a brain break. Even just 15 minutes every couple of days can make a huge difference in a stressful week.
If you have an older child, the first tip on this list can be tricky. You should always try to communicate with your child, but if their words are few and far between, suggest they try journaling.
Sometimes it’s easier to work through problems after getting them out of your head and onto paper. Solutions are easier to find, or the stress may just feel smaller. Journaling is a great way to work through concerns or worries while boosting their confidence and mental health.
Set up playdates outside of school
If your younger child is feeling some social anxiety, help them create bonds with their new classmates by setting up playdates. Many preschools or early elementary parents will run across each other during the first few weeks of back to school. Some classrooms even include class rosters with family contact info.
If your child mentions a child’s name, try contacting their parents for a fun playdate. School doesn’t always leave a lot of time for social interactions. But during a playdate, new friends can build their relationship in a relaxed environment. And you may make a new friend too.
When back to school stress is too much
You’ve tried the above methods and your child is still stressed and worried. If their stress is affecting their health and mood, it’s ok to look for extra help.
Talk with their teachers to see if they have noticed anything in the classroom. Let them know your concerns and find out what extra help the school can provide. If home life has been hectic, like with a big move or family changes, keep their teachers and counselors in the loop. They can’t help if they don’t know.
You may also want to look into therapy sessions for your child. Kids hear and understand so much, but they’re not always ready to share the details of their lives and thoughts. We all know the struggle of asking about their day and only hearing back “it was fine”.
Sometimes it helps to have an objective ear to share with. Talking with someone outside of their family and friends can remove your child’s concerns about how others will perceive them. You do the best you can to let your child know you are there for them, no matter what. But even so, a therapist can be a huge help when worries grow big.
For some kids, the social and academic pressures of school are too much to bear. Many families may choose homeschooling as a way to remove this stress from their child’s life.
This isn’t possible for every family, of course. If both parents work, this option is difficult to pull off. But online public school, curriculum-based homeschooling, or a child-led home education may be worth looking into if your child’s school worries go beyond making new friends and the occasional big test anxiety.
Back to school without the stress
As we all return back to school, channel happy vibes for your child’s year. The start of the year can be exciting and low stress with our tips. Try them out and share with us — how are you feeling about back to school? What works to lower your child’s stress and worries?
Ready for a FREE Printable? These first day of school photography sheets are the perfect way to capture their first day this year to share with family and friends!
Whether your child is visiting nursery or beginning their senior year, they can pose and smile with their very own creations to mark the occasion. Follow us on social @PLBFun and share your child’s first day photos! We can’t wait to share in this special time.