Going back to school can bring excitement for some kids, and for others, some anticipation and worry. Young children can get nervous about leaving parents. Older children may feel anxious about academics or how they’ll fit in with their peers. For parents, this time of year can be equally as stressful.
In 2021, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory on our country’s youth mental health emergency. He states that mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. So, what can parents do help their child cope with back-to-school anxiety? Be on the lookout for changes in your child’s behavior and mood. Signs of anxiety can include disturbances in sleep, increased defiance or irritability, lack of concentration, less energy, loss of appetite, physical symptoms such as nausea, refusal to go to school, and sadness or crying.
Dr. Nicholas Westers, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Health and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, recommends trying some of these techniques to help your child cope with back-to-school anxiety.
- Validate and listen to concerns
- Focus on what they can control
- Help your child feel prepared
- Encourage overall physical health
- Establish routines
- Teach stress-reducing activities
- Support hobbies
- Show encouragement and celebrate wins
- Seek mental health support if needed
If your child faces a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by calling 988 or chat with counselors by texting the word “JASON” to 741741.