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Back to School Anxiety

            As July is nearing its finish line, another season of change is right around the corner: Going back to school! This season can bring up a plethora of emotions for kids as they navigate the transition. As a parent, you may notice changes in your child as this time of year approaches. These changes may appear in their behavior, communication, self-care habits, appetite, and an overabundance of anxiety and stress. 

Understanding Causes of Back-to-School Anxiety 

Childhood and teenage anxiety around returning to school may be due to a variety of reasons. Common possible causes could be 2211 academic pressures, life transitions, fear of safety, athletic pressures, being in a new place and navigating social situations. Additionally, your child may feel anxious about different things based on their developmental age. For preschoolers and elementary schoolers, they may worry about how they will adapt at school without their parents, or how they will adjust to their peers and academics. For teens, they may worry about the loss of autonomy and freedom from the summer and how that will play out in school. Teens may also worry about adjusting to a rotating class schedule, and how they will interact socially with peers. They may feel added pressure to stay organized and perform well academically and/or athletically. When it comes to responding to your child’s back to school anxiety, it is important to first try and understand, as well as empathize with what they may be going through. 

4 Tips for Helping Children Ease Their Back-to-School Anxiety

  1. Listen to Them and Validate Their Emotions: Allow your child a safe place to express their feelings surrounding returning to school. Children and teens can express this verbally, through drawing, or even through play. Parents can validate feelings by offering a warm hug or reflecting their feelings. 
  2. Practice Deep Breathing: Spend a few minutes practicing deep breathing with your child or teen. You can explain to your child or teen that taking a few deep and slow breaths sends messages to our brain to calm our body and mind.
  3. Create a Fun Morning Ritual: If your child suffers from separation anxiety, and is specifically worried about morning drop off or bus pick up, create a fun morning ritual. A few examples could be singing a song before drop off, creating a quick handshake, creating a silly rhyme or repeating a mantra or positive affirmations.
  4. Support Your Child in Problem-Solving: After listening to your child and validating their emotions, you may try and problem solve with them. If there are certain areas they are increasingly worried about, you may work with your child on possible solutions. For example, if they are worried about finding their classroom, you may discuss with them possible teachers or peers they would feel comfortable asking for help. If your child is worried about making friends, you may role play or walk through different ways they could approach their peers.

Parents, you may also feel the pressure and anxiety around sending your child back to school. Remember that your feelings are valid and it is important to manage your anxiety as well. By modeling how to manage your own fears and anxiety, you can instill in your children the ways they can do this for themselves. You got this parents, let the back to school season begin!

Written by Masters Level Intern Hannah Miskelley


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PhD, J. M. B. (2018, August 23). Back to school anxiety. Harvard Health Blog.