If your child tells you just before the start of school that he doesn’t want to go to school, there’s a good chance he’s experiencing back to school anxiety. Before you respond with anger or disappointment, you should take some time to find out what’s really troubling your student.
Kids of all ages can experience back to school anxiety. Often this displays itself as a fear of school or a hate for school. Your child may try to avoid school or put off doing the things needed to prepare for school. Some children will even try to play sick or come up with other excuses to avoid going to school.
While it can be very frustrating to the parent, there is often a legitimate reason why your child is struggling with going back to school. The first step is to listen to your child and determine what the source of the anxiety is. Listening to your child means really giving him the chance to explain what is bothering him. Don’t interrupt and don’t jump in with your own opinions or try to explain away his feeling. They are his feelings and he is entitled to them, whether they are justified with reason or not.
Some reasons for back to school anxiety include:
• Fear of a new school/ new grade
• Bullying or other harassment
• Lack of self-confidence/ low self-esteem
• Changes that took place over the summer (puberty, recent move, etc)
• New teachers and/or new classes and subjects
Once you determine what the reason or reasons are that your child is experiencing back to school anxiety, you can create a plan to cope with this problem. Be empathetic with your child and explain that you will always offer him love and support. Explain why school is necessary but then help create a plan to tackle the problems that are creating the anxiety.
Understand that change can be especially hard for children and new things can be overwhelming, particularly with certain kids. Take time to reassure your child and to create a plan to make things easier. For example, if your child is anxious because he is unsure of what to expect in the new grade, spend some time reviewing what it’s going to be like. Allow him the chance to express his fears and talk openly about them.
If the fear is that he will not be able to keep up with the workload that a new grade or new class brings, devise a plan together that will combat this and then commit to helping him for as long as it takes to stay on track with schoolwork and classes.
It also helps to comfort your child by sharing your own stories of being in school, being promoted at work or starting a new job. Tell him how you coped and show him positive examples of how change can be a good thing and how everyone has to learn to deal with change in life. Then be there for him no matter what happens.
Back to school does not have to create fear and anxiety in your child. Taking the time to talk it out and plan for the new school year can make all the difference. Active parenting is important to raising healthy, happy kids of all ages!