Back to School: Tips to help kids cope with anxiety as they return to classroom

Connecticut Families

“Well, I’m going to a new school, so I’m a little nervous,” says 10 year old Peyton Deixler of Guilford. Her mom, Stephanie, says she’s actually experiencing more than just a few butterflies.

“Definitely anxious and nervous to go back to school. Because she’s going into middle school, it’s a new change,” she explains.

“Stress is seasonal – we don’t see it much in the summer,” says Anthony Rao, a pediatric psychologist, who recently wrote a book called The Power of Agency with Paul Napper. They believe moms and dads are also reacting to the end of vacation season. “Parents go back to work. They feel stress as well. So, what we like to say is, ‘Put on your oxygen mask take care of your own stress,'” says Napper.

Once you’re in check, help your child by preparing for the classroom before the first day of school. “At least a week ahead of time, switch those sleep schedules, try to get some structure going, try to get them eating around the right time and then make your home a little more like school without going too far,” says Rao, noting you can play trivia games, for example.

If you’re sensing stress, get your child some fresh air. “The big thing is to shut down screens and devices and get into motion and movement especially outdoor time,” he adds.

Deixler is planning frequent check-ins with her fifth grader about homework and the social scene. “I try to keep open communication, talk about it,” she says, adding that she’s glad society is now more open about discussing these issues.

She believes the return to school provides a teachable moment for her daughter: “My hope is that she becomes stronger and can manage anxieties on her own.”

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