Managing Back-to-School Anxiety in a Post-Pandemic World

By Stephany Gonzalez, MFT Intern

Back-to-school anxiety may feel more intensified after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting Children with Back-to-School Anxiety

Having back-to-school anxiety is normal and understandable. However, after COVID-19 this back-to-school anxiety may feel a little different. Anxiety often springs from worry and nervousness. Hence this back-to-school anxiety is not only visiting parents and caregivers but it’s also impacting kids.

Remember, kids are like little sponges: if you find yourself feeling anxious your child may begin to mimic your behavior. On the contrary, even if you are not feeling anxious your child may still experience back-to-school anxiety. If you are wondering if your child is experiencing anxiety here are some signs you can look out for.

Children with Anxiety Symptoms

  • Appear more clingy than normal
  • Complain of stomachaches
  • Display changes in eating and sleep habits
  • Express negative thoughts or worries
  • Get upset or angry more quickly
  • Have episodes of unexplained crying
  • Struggle to concentrate

The advantage of being aware of the symptoms of this back-to-school anxiety is if you know anxiety has paid you or your child a visit you can step in and help. Below I have listed a few tips you can start to incorporate to manage this back-to-school anxiety.

Back to school anxiety may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tips to Manage Your Child’s Back-to-School Anxiety

Start with the basics

  • Ensure healthy eating habits
  • Begin practicing bedtime routines. You’ll want to begin practicing bedtime and daily routines. Start your child on a bedtime routine two weeks before school starts. Starting a bedtime routine can be very helpful for you and your child. Although things can come up and interrupt your daily schedule having some structure can help your child be prepared for what comes next in their day.

Listen to your child

  • Listen to your child and check in frequently
  • Ask “what worries you?”
  • Empathize and normalize their feelings

Role-play and problem solve

  • Do not say “you’ll be fine” or “don’t worry”. Remember to validate their feelings.
  • Do practice scenarios and model appropriate responses. Tailor the roleplay to your child’s specific worry.
  • Teach coping skills, such as taking deep breaths and activities that help them feel grounded. You can try the 3-3-3 rule.
  • Focus on the controllable. For example, if your child is worried about getting sick from COVID-19 remind them they can only control their actions like washing their hands.

Focus on the positive

  • Encourage positive thinking. An example of this would be by asking what three things your child is looking forward to.
  • Go back to school shopping with them and let them choose their school supplies.

Model confidence and comfort

  • Say goodbye just once to them
  • Be cheerful and firm. Remember to model good behaviors. Your child is watching and if they see you excited and happy, they are more likely to model that behavior.

If you have already started to implement these tips, great. Nonetheless, if you are curious about whether these back-to-school anxiety tips will help you and your child, I suggest you try them! You are in charge of your healing process. If you find that you need to modify these steps, please do. In the end, if you or your child need further assistance do not hesitate to reach out to a therapist.

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