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How to cope with back-to-school anxiety

Published on
23 August 2019

Starting a new term or going to a new school can be a nerve-wracking time for children and young people.

We spoke to a practitioner in one of our mental health services in London to get tips on how to help your child feel ready for the start of term and settle in.

Think about what could help them take on the day

Young child lying on bed

We all have little things that can make us feel more like ourselves. It’s worth talking to your child about what makes them feel safe - what we sometimes call “putting our armour on”. This might be styling their hair in a way they like, having a conversation with a friend or family member, eating their favourite breakfast, doing power poses in the mirror or doing something fun the night before.

Reflect and celebrate at the end of the day

Consider what your child might want at the end of the day; it could be a chance to chat with you, seeing or speaking to a friend, having their favourite meal, or simply writing in a diary. Celebrating each day at a time is incredibly important.

Help them to speak up about their needs

If there are particular things your child would like their school/new teacher to know about them, but feel unable to tell them in person, you could work with them to create a ‘pupil passport’ to let their new teacher know. This can include useful information such as “I like it when I’m sat near the front of the room so I can see the door” or “I don’t like it when people stand too close to me”. This can be created with words, pictures or anything creative.

Reassure them they're not alone

It's completely normal for your child to feel worried and anxious about starting a new school or new year/term. 

Everyone copes in different ways with worries and anxiety, so it’s important to know the basics of anxiety.

It’s also important that your child knows that they can talk to you about this, so try to talk to them about how they feel about going back to school. If they’re comfortable to talk about it with others, you could suggest they speak to children who may be in a similar situation. That way, they can share their experiences and go through the school transition together.