10 Tips to Help Reduce ‘Back to School’ Anxiety

It’s getting closer evey day! That time of year when you’ve got to prepare for the inevitable struggles of getting your kids back to school.

After they’ve spent weeks in a world of carefree abandon, it’s time for the structure to return.

For some kids, it’s a happy time. They get to be reunited with their friends and gain a bit of independence from their parents for a few hours a day.

But, for many, especially younger children, going back to school fills them with dread. Whether it’s general anxiety about starting school, seperation anxiety, or a school phobia, you know the tears of desperation are going to start soon.

So, how can you help make it better?

Clearly, everyone is different. So, after some research, I’ve listed the 10 most commonly successful ideas below.

Set some goals:

If they’ve already started school and they’re returning for a new year, before they start back, reflect on the last school year with them. Talk through the subjects they enjoyed and ask them to recall what they liked about those subjects and what they’d like to achieve this year. This’ll refocus and motivate them.  By prompting a bit of excitement about the coming term, you’ll help get them in the right frame of mind before they even enter the classroom.

Set some goals

Introduce a friend:

If this is their first experience of school, chances are, there’s someone you know who also has a child starting at the same time. If that’s the case, suggest meeting up with them and letting the children play together outside of school. It’ll be much easier for them to adjust to a new routine, if they’re starting with someone they know.


Begin the routine:

This particular tip probably won’t be very popular with your kids, but as long as you stagger the changes over a week or so, it’ll make things much easier when term time begins. About a week or two before school starts, begin the ‘back to school’ routines. You could maybe start, by setting a realistic bedtime and perhaps getting them to pick out their clothes for tomorrow.

regular bedtime

Help them prepare:

If your child is about to start pre-school, you’ve no doubt thought about Separation anxiety. If you think they might find the transition difficult, there’s a very good book you could try by Anna Dewdney, called  Llama Llama Misses Mama  It’s written especially for younger children who are feeling anxious about starting school and being away from you.  I know of several parents that found it very helpful.


Help them cope:

An alternative to sharing experiences in a book, is to give them a predictable routine. For example, telling your child “You go and enjoy yourself with the other children while Mummy does the shopping and then I’ll come back to get you”.

It’s often as traumatic for the parent on the first day of school, but try to keep your own fears under wraps. Kids will know if you’re upset. Becoming upset can make a child’s worries grow, but talking to them calmly assures them that everything’s going to be fine.

help them adjust

Encourage responsibility:

If your child’s a bit older, set up a small homework area in their bedroom with a desk or small table. Buy them a small cork-board to keep their timetable on, along with any notes for school, etc. Structure is key and it’s important they get in to a routine early on.

By giving them a sepeate area for study, it subconsciously tells them that school is important and shows that you’re interested in their success. It’s vital that your child feels you are invested in their school work, so this idea ticks that box as well.

school work

Encourage extra-curricular  interests:

Have a look, to see what’s on offer for your child at school. Once you know what’s available, talk to your child and discuss what they might like to do. Most schools nowadays offer things like, dance, different sports, computer studies, or learning to play an instrument, for example. Often children see these things as seperate from schoolwork, helping them transition more effectively.

music lesson

Talk to them:

Tell them about the funny things that happened to you on your first day (even if they’re not completely true) – and how you overcame the difficulties. Remind them that everyone gets a bit nervous about starting school. Assure them that what they’re feeling is natural and the other children will be feeling nervous too.

Acknowledge that like doing anything new, starting school can be hard. But, it soon becomes easier.

talk to them

Give them a connection:

Sometimes it’s easier for them to start school, if they have something of yours with them. For example, maybe they could take your pen, or clip one of your keyrings to their pencil case, etc? Taking a special object with them can sometimes soothe their anxiety during the day.


Be interested in their day:

After their day at school, make time to talk about what they’ve done. Ask them who they played with and what they enjoyed doing. Try to remember those names and use them when you pick them up the following day and in the future.

make time for them



Clearly, these ideas only scrape the surface. That’s where you come in! What things have you tried… what worked and what didn’t?

Your voice is as important as mine. Your experiences are as relevant and all information is helpful. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or on social media 🙂

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Steve, the Founder of Teen Anxiety UK, has been writing books and articles about various aspects of Psychology since 2006.

His formal qualifications include Clinical Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Child Psychology.

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