Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Back to School Anxiety 😟


Heading back to school for the new academic year can be both exciting and scary for kids, especially our highly sensitive kids. Even if our kids are familiar with their school, they still have new teachers, new rooms, new classmates, new schedules, new (and greater) expectations and they are separating from YOU. The early weeks of school can feel overwhelming and over-stimulating and can increase anxiety for our already anxious kiddos. It takes time to truly settle into a groove and develop a sense of confidence.


So how can we help our kids, particularly those who are much bigger feelers, manage their anxieties and behaviors as school gets underway?

Beyond the usual recommendations of making sure they have some down time before bed, getting a good night’s sleep and eating well, there are some more specific things that you can do to help your anxious child successfully ease back into the school routine.


Be Extra Patient – Remind yourself that this is a tough time for our big feeling, big behaving kids. They are getting overstimulated. Our goal is to help them regulate their emotions. And when they take out their feelings on you… don’t take it personally. Their behavior isn’t a reflection of how they feel about you. Their nervous system is simply being over-taxed. Take a pause, breathe, and keep your voice tone calm and warm. This will help bring down their anxiety.


Be Flexible – Pick you battles and decide what’s worth holding your ground for and what you can flex. Maybe wearing dress shoes with shorts and a winter sweater doesn’t make a lot of sense to us but if it’s not going to be a safety or personal values issue, consider just rolling with it. It’s important to kids and it makes them less anxious. This helps kids learn to feel good about their own choices.


Plan Ahead – Prepare lunches, snacks, outfits, sock & shoes, and make a plan for their hair the night before, encouraging kids to help. This relieves some of the morning rush anxiety and frees up a little time when something inevitably goes wrong (e.g., their hairstyle isn’t working out or the socks they picked don’t feel right with these particular shoes, etc.). When you can calmly and gracefully work through the issues, kids learn to do this too.


Open the Door to Conversation But Don’t Push It – As parents, we want to hear everything about school - the classroom, the teacher, other kids, what’s happening in special classes or on the playground or lunchroom, etc. Do your best to avoid too many direct questions, though, especially right after school. Big feeling, anxious kids need time to decompress. It’s ok to make statements that show kids you’re interested in what they’re doing at school (e.g., I saw a lot of kids coming out of school with big art projects today. I wonder what they were doing? Or, I see you have a new book with you.). Then let kids come to you. When you give them a little space and time, they usually tell you about something about their day in passing later, then you can engage them in a discussion about it.


Plan Some Special Moments – Put a special treat in the lunch box or plan a surprise trip for ice cream or another small outing now and then. This is a great way to not only make your kiddo feel seen and reduce some worry, but it’s a wonderful way to make lots of little positive connections with your kiddo and continually strengthen your relationship.



Remember… Kids may be extra tired, extra cranky, extra moody, extra dramatic, extra irritable, and extra anxious as school gets underway. We may feel the same way! However, when we take some purposeful steps to help our kids with their feelings, it requires that we work on containing our own anxieties too, which ultimately is helping our kids do the same. Win-win all around.


Welcome to the 2022-2023 academic year!

Dr. Denise