Dealing with back to school anxiety

Some advice for parents on dealing with back to school anxiety from our school Psychologist, Kelly…
  1. Remember (and remind your child) that this is VERY common.  It’s normal to be nervous at the start of a new school year.
  2. Remind your child to use simple strategies like deep breathing and visualising positive outcomes.
  3. Ask your child what is making them nervous about going back to school. It could be meeting new people, a change of classroom, a new teacher, being away from home.  When you know exactly what is making them nervous, it’s easier to help.  
  4. Give your child practical strategies for facing the challenges they are worried about
DO make sure that your child knows YOU are okay…

Sometimes, children are nervous about coming back to school because they are worried about what is happening at home while they are gone. Reassure your child that you won’t be bored, lonely or unhappy while they are in school.  Reassure your child that, as the adult(s), you will deal with any home issues that arise.    

DO talk to your child’s teacher

Let your child’s teacher know that s/he is feeling anxious.  Teachers can then take steps to help.   

Back to School

DON’T make false promises, like “I’ll be back in an hour” or “I’m just popping to the toilet”    

It’s a quick fix solution that enables you to escape without too many tears…for one day only!  From that day forwards, your child will find it hard to trust you when you leave them, even for short periods of time.   Just be honest about the fact that you will be back at the end of the day.  For younger children, they may need a concrete reminder of when that will be.  4pm means nothing to them so a better option would be “I’ll be back just after you have afternoon playtime”.   

DO encourage your child to visualise happy endings…

This is a great strategy when children find themselves picturing scary things happening in school; being isolated socially, not getting along with a new teacher, getting lost, etc.  Instead of playing a movie in his/her head where the ending is screaming, crying, running away, etc. encourage your child to picture an ending where good things happen and, even if they don’t, an ending where they deal with the situation calmly.  Ask them to picture themselves talking to you at the end of the day and telling you what a great day they had. Ask them to imagine how good it will feel to know that you are proud of them for facing their worries about going back to school.

Back to School

DON’T hang around at the gate  

Parents send a powerful message to their children when they leave them swiftly and confidently in school:

  • School is a safe place to be.
  • I trust the professionals in this school to take care of you.
  • I am fine.
  • You’ll be fine.                            

Back to school

DO Wear shades

It’s perfectly normal for you to feel emotional when you leave your child in school after the long summer, especially if it’s a new school or they are transitioning to a new school stage.  It’s important to do as much as you can to hide those feelings from your child.  It may require an Oscar-worthy performance on your part but a calm, confident goodbye when taking your child back to school lets them know that everything will be fine.  If you look doubtful, they will be doubtful.  If you’re clinging to them, they will cling to you even harder.

DO Look after yourself!

It can be really hard to leave our kids in school.  Often we feel guilty.  Sometimes we feel relieved… and then we feel guilty for feeling relieved!  We worry that the teacher might not see just how wonderful our little darlings are.  We worry that all the other kids seem to be making instant life-long friends. We worry that we bought the wrong kind of shoes and have condemned our child to years of ridicule and loneliness as “wrong shoe boy”. We torture ourselves with images of our child crying alone in a corner.  

When we’re introducing our child to a new language, it can be even harder.  We suddenly forget the times that we have marvelled at them playing happily on the beach with kids from all over the world, without saying a word.  We panic about whether our child will be able to communicate their basic needs.  

Allow yourself to have these worries, they are perfectly normal.  Allow yourself to shed a few tears once you get back to your car.  Then keep yourself busy.  Distract yourself with work or leisure activities.  Remind yourself that this time will pass… quickly.  

Most importantly, allow yourself to walk away guilt-free if your child is crying.  You are NOT a bad parent for walking away.  In fact, by walking away confidently, you are doing the best for your child.  You are sending your child a powerful message that the professionals you’re leaving them with will meet their needs.  And they will.      

  • At SIS, most of our students have moved schools at least once
  • Many have moved schools several times
  • Many have moved from schools in several different countries.
  • Most of our teachers and support staff know exactly how it feels to start a new job in a new country
  • Our teachers have hundreds of years of collective experience helping students to adapt, integrate and feel at home.  
  • Even better, our students have thousands of years of collective experience adapting and integrating … and helping others to do the same.   

So, your children really are in good hands.

If you are struggling with any of the issues mentioned here and you would like some further advice, please come in for a chat.  Just email me at to arrange a time.  We’re here to help!      

Back to School

Dr Kelly Lewis-Cole
School Psychologist




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