By Sonja Wildwood, Cambia Hills Therapist
We are coming upon that time of year when the sales fliers are full of back to school bargains with backpacks, notebooks, and mechanical pencils. For some of us, this is an exciting time of year full of promise and extra energy and for others, it is a time of dread and anxiety.
A new school year holds many unknowns such as wondering what new teachers will be like, not being sure of schedules and classes, and the uncertainty of friendships.
The fear and anxiety that comes with a new school year is understandable. It’s important to normalize and affirm the feelings of our kids and teens while helping them to manage these feelings.
Here are some tips:
Listen to your child when they share their worry and other uncomfortable feelings related to returning to school.
Use reflective listening (repeating back what you hear) to make sure you are understanding correctly. Encourage your child to tell you the whole story of
their worries about school, not just pieces of it.
Help them to name the underlying/root fear or worry that they have.
Is there a specific fear that they have about returning to school? For example, are they worried that they will not like their teacher? This may take some
prompting and reflecting to work out.
Normalize the uncomfortable feeling.
Is there a time that you have felt worried about starting something new? Can you share an example or can another family member relate?
Remind them of times that they have overcome and worked through similar feelings.
For example: “Remember when you were worried about starting dance lessons? Look how much you enjoy your lessons now!”
Make a plan to address the underlying fear.
For example, can you email or call the new teacher to start to get to know them with your child? Is there an open house or other event at the new school
so your child can become oriented? Check out the school website to see what events and/or information is offered.
Use calming skills to help in the moment anxiety.
What skills does your child already know and use? Encourage calming skills such as exercise, deep breathing, guided imagery, writing, drawing, listening to
music, talking with others, spending time outside or with pets, etc.
Reframe anxiety with excitement.
How much of the anxiety can also be seen as excitement for a new year? With a more positive spin on the very normal feelings of a new school year, we can
all enter into the fall with confidence and feeling open to what it may bring.
Do you have questions or want to know more? Contact Sonja at 218-623-6476 or email