September can be a stressful time for our children. And understandably so! Returning to school after six weeks can be a daunting prospect. So it’s not uncommon for some children to suffer from back-to-school anxiety.
To help you identify whether your child is stressed about returning to school, we’ve outlined 8 symptoms of back-to-school anxiety. But don’t worry – our advice doesn’t end there. We’ve also included a few suggestions to help soothe your child if they are experiencing any anxiety.
1. Difficulty sleeping
Irregular sleeping patterns often signify your child is suffering from back-to-school anxiety. So keep an eye out for any sudden changes. For example, if your child has trouble falling asleep or is waking throughout the night, they may be anxious or overwhelmed.
2. Abnormal appetite
It’s no secret that stress can affect our appetite. So make sure you’re paying attention to your child’s eating patterns. If they are overeating or undereating, it could be a sign they’re feeling stressed about school starting.
3. Aches and pains
If your child continually complains of aches and pains, but you can’t detect any signs of a physical illness, it may be because they’re suffering from anxiety.
4. Lack of confidence
Often when our children suffer from back-to-school anxiety, they lose a lot of their confidence. So be aware if they become increasingly insecure, apologetic, or doubtful of their abilities.
5. Trouble focusing
If your child is struggling to focus for more than a few minutes (whether that’s when they’re playing, reading or watching television), it may be because they’re preoccupied with worrying about school.
6. Easily irritated
When dealing with complex emotions like stress and anxiety, it’s not uncommon for our children to lash out. Why? Because they don’t know how else to deal with these emotions. So, if your child misbehaves more than usual, consider the fact they could be (subconsciously) crying for help.
7. Withdrawn and disengaged
It’s always concerning when our bright, bubbly children disengage with their friends and favourite activities. Granted, we all have good days and bad days. But if their withdrawn behaviour becomes more frequent, it may be because they’re suffering from back-to-school anxiety.
8. Constantly seeking reassurance
When we feel vulnerable, we often seek reassurance from our close friends and family. So if your child is acting unusually clingy or is constantly asking questions about school, it may be that they’re nervously seeking reassurance.
Easing your child’s anxieties
If you think your child is worried about returning to school, try not to panic. It’s natural for us to feel anxious at times – especially when we’re going through transitional periods. With that said, there are some steps we can take to try and soothe their back-to-school anxiety.
Address any negative self-talk – it’s okay for your child to feel nervous about school. However, you don’t want their anxiety to get out of hand and impact their self-image. So always address negative self-talk by reminding them they are loved, valued and capable.
Be attentive – pay close attention to your child’s behaviour and monitor their eating and sleeping habits. The quicker you can identify their back-to-school anxiety, the sooner you can help them through it.
Discuss how you can help – every child has different needs. So make sure to talk to your child about what support they need. They may want to visit their classroom, talk about their feelings, or simply spend quality time with you before school starts.
Reassure them – instead of avoiding talking about school, try to reassure your child by discussing the positive aspects. Talk about their favourite lessons and play times with friends. It may not be a fix-all solution, but it can certainly soothe their anxieties.
(For more advice, read: Starting School: 10 Tips to Help Smooth their Transition)
This too, shall pass
It’s heartbreaking to see our children suffering. But (with any luck), their anxiety should subside once they’re back at school. So try not to worry too much.
With that said, if their anxiety persists, don’t be afraid to seek professional advice. Every child requires a different level of support, so focus on helping your child with their back-to-school anxiety.