Back to School Anxiety -- Strategies to Help You Cope

The anticipation of school brings excitement and anxiety. Summer is over and the responsibilities of homework schedules, tests and structured days return. Parents and children experience the stress of academic and social pressures. Anticipating change can spell the difference between feeling settled by the end of fall term or experiencing distress.

You can stem the tide of stress by preparing yourself and your family for the transition back to school in the following ways.


Creating a household schedule to deal with the increased workload is a must! Make schedules your friend, not your enemy. Spend 20 minutes preparing lunches, getting clothes set out to be worn the next day and anticipating travel arrangements to and from school. Older children (ages 10 and up) can take on some of these tasks themselves, but may still need your support initiating this kind of structure. Start with the basic needs, but do not stop there.

All children need help organizing their homework/study schedules. Helping them do so may ensure that they do not fall behind in the beginning of the school year, which could have a negative effect on their learning and self-esteem the rest of the school year. Sit down with your children -- even your teenagers -- and make a list of what back-to-school supplies are needed. Include clothes, shoes, binders, organizers, pencils, file folders and tabs. Make a trip to the store together and involve your child in picking out his or her favorite colored folders and latest style clothing. This will help your child become excited about the school year and motivated toward success.


Before school begins, sit down again with your children individually to help them develop a system for success that works. Use colored dividers and tabs for different subjects. Utilize pockets in folders for incoming and outgoing homework. Let them know that their parents are there to help them put school papers in proper places when the school year begins, and assist them in anticipating their needs for scheduling study time and developing healthy study habits.


The best-laid plans can lead to naught if follow-up does not occur. Besides checking in with your child after the first day of school, schedule time to review his or her classes and the responsibilities for the week, the month or the semester (for high school students). Responsibilities and expectations for academic work increase with the grade. Junior high and high school students are particularly vulnerable if they are not well organized. Since the hormones are raging, and social pressures are distracting, these students may particularly need your help -- even though they are older!

Check in each week to review your child's ability to use the system you have developed together. Attend back-to-school night in the fall to make contact with you child's teacher(s) and be in touch with the physical environment. By making it a point to be connected to their child's school life, parents glean insight and gain invaluable information about how to assist children throughout the year. School events, activities and teacher-parent conferences provide avenues for contact. Use these opportunities!


Staying in touch with your child's school environment allows you to be ready to troubleshoot obstacles that arise, particularly if you are trying to turn around a child's previous negative experience. Consider tutoring resources (sometimes available for free during lunchtime or study periods). You may see your job as "secretary" to your child's needs in some cases. Some children are more capable of organization than others. Those who need greater assistance may require that you connect them with resources that are available in the school environment but which they have simply ignored.

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