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Managing Back-To-School Stress and Anxiety

Fall is usually a sign that children are back at school, which can be exciting as kids are seeing friends and engaging in school activities again. However, it’s also common for children to feel worried or stressed during this season. Depending on their age, children may feel anxious about being away from their parents or family after spending so much time together during the summer. Some kids may be starting at new schools or be worried about transitioning into a new grade or having a different teacher. The good news is there are several ways parents and caregivers can help them cope with school-related stress and anxiety early in the school year. Whether you’re a parent of young children or teenagers, through open communication and your support, your child can navigate this transition with confidence. 

Validate Your Children’s Worries

The first thing parents can do when their child is dealing with school-related stress or anxiety is to acknowledge and support them. Since stress and anxiety can look different for everyone, it’s important to look out for some common signs. Parents may notice that their children are more clingy, irritable, moody, or withdrawn, and some children may complain of stomachaches or difficulty sleeping.

If you recognize any of these signs in your children, it’s helpful to create a space that is free from judgment so your child can feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you. Be an attentive listener and reassure them that their feelings are okay and natural. For instance, if your child mentions having a stomachache, you could respond with, “I understand that your stomach hurts, and that can be uncomfortable.” Then, get curious without judgment and ask, “How is school? Is there anything you don’t like about it right now?” This way, you’re acknowledging their physical or emotional discomfort and showing interest in their feelings about school.

Be Mindful of Seasonal Changes and Mental Health

In addition to worries about the new school year, the seasonal shift from summer to fall can also affect our children’s moods and how they cope with stress. Because our internal biological clocks, or circadian rhythms, can be affected by fluctuations in daylight, a decrease in daylight hours and vitamin D exposure can lead to disruptions in our sleep patterns, hormone levels, and overall mood. Coupled with school-related stress, some children and teenagers may be at higher risk of being impacted by the seasonal shift. Therefore, it’s essential that they get enough access to natural light, stay active, and stay connected to friends and family.

Establish a Routine

Routines can be especially beneficial for children during the back-to-school season as they shift from a less structured summer break to a more structured school schedule. You may very well face some resistance, as many kids will have likely stayed up later during their summers. However, establishing a routine can provide a sense of predictability and stability in their lives, helping them transition more smoothly and reducing feelings of uncertainty and worry. Decompressing after school, doing some homework before dinner, connecting with friends, and going to bed at a set time are some examples of routines that can positively impact their overall well-being.

 A well-established routine often includes regular bedtimes and wake-up times. Consistent sleep patterns are essential for a child’s overall physical and mental health and can ensure they get enough rest to support their capacity for learning at school. If children don’t get enough sleep, they may find it challenging to focus and stay engaged in the classroom. Studies also show that engaging in routines and rituals may be associated with language, academic, and social skill development.

Balance School and Extracurricular Activities

While participating in extracurricular activities can be beneficial, it’s also vital to ensure that children maintain a healthy balance between schoolwork and other commitments. When children are overscheduled, they may become more tired, stressed, irritable, and anxious. Research also suggests that unstructured time can help kids feel more relaxed and promote creativity and social skill development, so ensuring they have enough downtime will help minimize those feelings of stress or worry.

Seek Professional Help When Needed

If you notice that your child’s anxiety and stress are becoming too much to handle and continue for an extended period, it may be time to consider seeking professional help. School counsellors, therapists, and psychologists can provide valuable guidance and support for you and your child through these challenging times.

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Julie Row

Julie specializes in supporting individuals work through the complexities of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and life transitions, while recognizing the impact that societal structures like culture, gender, discrimination etc. can influence how we relate to ourselves and others. In her free time, Julie can be found singing in the car, going for walks with her partner and kids, watching concerts or musicals or daydreaming about her next Disney family vacation!

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Searchlight Counselling provides in-person and virtual therapy for individuals and couples in Burnaby, Vancouver, and across British Columbia. Specializing in BIPOC & 2SLGBTQIA+.