Updated: Aug 12
Let’s face it: school is scary, especially in today’s world of screens that we can never seem to escape and traumatic events such as COVID and shootings. Even if your child is excited to go back and see friends, wear the new clothes they got over the summer, use fresh pens, and meet their teachers; that doesn’t mean they are immune from back-to-school anxiety.
As we get back into the swing of things with the new school year, keep this post in mind to help your child (and yourself, as a parent) cope with back-to-school anxiety.
A Foundation of Global Stress
Kids are incredibly impressionable. They absorb everything around them like sponges. In fact, up until your child reaches around 8 years old, they operate primarily in delta, theta, and alpha brainwaves. The inner world of imagination thrives and they are basically consistently daydreaming in the subconscious.
With the events of recent years, our children have subconsciously absorbed a great deal of negativity and trauma. Because of this, it is so important that we treat our children with patience and provide them with the space they need to open up and process their experiences.
Although your child may appear fine now, this subconscious imprint can have an impact years down the road, appearing in their adult life as unresolved childhood trauma.
That’s why it is so important for the whole family to visit a holistic therapist, such as myself, to release the toxicity keeping us from abundant joy and create a game plan for how to handle challenges, such as going back to school.
Why Your Children Feel Anxious About School
Apart from the state of the world, which impacts your child (even if you keep them guarded), there are several reasons your children may feel stressed or anxious while transitioning into the school year. Let’s dive into some of the main worries:
Concerns About Friends & Bullies
We all know kids can be mean, and many children have to face bullies during their early years. Some may worry that they will have to experience nasty remarks, passive-aggressive exclusion, and even physical violence once again.
Some children may feel insecure about their appearance. This could be the result of growing up in an underserved community and not having the right clothing or supplies. It also could be a concern as a result of weight changes, puberty, acne, or societal beauty standards.
Life changes quickly as a young person, so your child may have recently had a falling out with a close friend. Try to keep an ongoing, calm and open conversation with your children so they feel safe to share updates in their social life.
Your child simply may not want to part ways with you for a variety of reasons. Separation anxiety and back-to-school stress frequently come hand-in-hand, especially for younger kids, as many rely on home and family as a crutch.
Read my blog on separation anxiety to learn more if you think your child may be struggling with this blockage.
Unfortunately, our education system is not built to support every student. Children all learn differently, often through play and creative projects, which are not always the focus in a modern educational environment. Academic anxiety occurs when someone gets nervous as a result of schoolwork or test taking.
Many parents either intentionally or unintentionally place a lot of pressure on their child to succeed in school, sometimes triggering a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response before the child even begins schooling. All of these nervous system responses can be harmful to a child’s ability to absorb and retain knowledge.
The following contribute to academic anxiety:
Concern about grades or getting into college
Task-generated interference (this can include checking the clock, needing to go the bathroom, or procrastinating)
Inefficient study skills (such as cramming before a test or working in an unproductive environment for the specific student)
Academic anxiety can be either an unconscious or conscious problem. Your child may not be aware of how much it is impacting them. That’s why it’s a good idea to normalize checking in with your emotions in your household.
Seeing a holistic EPT™ therapist for occasional check-ins can be a great way to build your child’s self-awareness and confidence.
Signs of Anxiety
Pay attention for the following signs of anxiety in your child. A lot of kids with anxiety may not know how to verbalize what they are feeling, especially since anxiety can often be physical.
Greater clinginess than usual
Restlessness and fidgeting
Changes in eating and sleeping
More expressive of negative thoughts
Easily to tears more than usual
Quick to anger
Seeing a professional mental health pro like myself, Jolisa Clare, can give your child the toolkit they need to healthily communicate their feelings.
Tips to Get Your Family Through This Change
There are many ways both you and your child can feel safer and more comfortable with the transition into the school year.
Helping your child become comfortable with their new routine can both ease your child’s anxiety and ease your own mind. Work together to adjust to your new routine by discussing or even practicing what you will do in the mornings and how your child will get home from school. This will help them feel more connected to the environment.
If your child is driving to school for the first time, this is especially important. It’s best they know how to get to school and where to park without confusion.
Have the Difficult Conversations
This can be tricky, as having conversations about potential bad things happening can lead to more anxiety. However, with the right plan of action, anxiety can be diminished. Knowledge is power, after all.
Instead of having a serious sit-down conversation with your child, talk about it in your normal daily interactions through the summer. Create a plan in case of an emergency, discuss healthy stranger danger, and encourage your child to stay mindful of their surroundings.
If your child is in middle school and the circumstances are right, this may be a time to start “the talk.” It doesn’t have to be a big deal, and it also doesn’t have to be a singular big conversation. Break up the subject matter into bite-sized chunks because your child will probably have a lot of questions.
Unfortunately, this kind of material can become a source for bullying and unhealthy behavior, which is why I encourage healthy discussion.
Parents who have open and nonjudgmental conversations with their children (at the appropriate age) about puberty, sexuality, and consent tend to foster more trust and keep their child safe from real dangers that may present themselves throughout their lives.
Having difficult conversations with your child can be easy. In fact, the ‘easier’ it feels, the more your child will trust you and be reminded that they aren’t alone.
One of the best things you as a parent can do during this period is to stay present. When we are busy and stressed about our own careers and to-do lists, it can be easy to be snappy and irritable in the morning or scroll on our screens instead of engaging with our kids at the end of the day.
By staying present for your child, you won’t just find more joy in the experience of watching them grow. You will also feel more assured that they will communicate if something is wrong (even if it’s in a subconscious way). Your child will feel your love and feel safer because of it.
Work with Jolisa Clare Holistic
You know your child better than anyone, so if you sense that something more serious than normal back-to-school nerves is going on, trust your gut.
When you work with me, Jolisa Clare, we’ll use holistic therapy methods and Emotional Polarity Technique™ to discover the root of the problem. By working with you and your child together, we can create the communication tools your family needs to stay grounded in trust, love, and forgiveness.
Get back to a positive school experience; call me to schedule your free consultation – 765-382-6996.