It’s August! How did that happen? Yesterday, while grocery shopping, I saw a display for  Halloween. OK, it is seriously too early to purchase Halloween candy. BUT.. what is right around the corner-and in some cases next week, is the summer to back-to-school transition which may be accompanied by 1st day of school anxiety.

Sleepless nights, irritability, nauseous feeling, and tears may have taken residence in your home. These are all typical , anxious responses to first day of school. (I’m referring to the children in this article, although moms have been known to have similar symptoms !)

Fears and firsts tend to go together.

Common back-to-school first day fears for little kids include: separation from parents, riding the bus, getting lost in “that big building”, afraid the teacher will be mean and they won’t make friends.

Common back-to-school first day fears for older kids include: fitting in, safety, class difficulty, homework, and eating lunch alone.

Here are 7 ways to fight the back-to-school anxiety as you encourage and prepare littles to teens for the school year:

1. Listen to your child’s concerns. don’t try and talk him out of his worries. He will only work harder at convincing you he’s scared.
2. Normalize your child’s fears. Describe your feelings as a child about going back to school.  (I would tell my children that when I was a teacher I felt first day anxiety too.)
3. Problem solve to empower your child. rather than say, “It will be OK,” help him figure out a solution to his potential problem. “If ____ happens, what can you do in response to that?” or “How could you prevent that situation? ” This will help your child feel prepared and ready.
4. Set the tone. Avoid getting caught up in your child’s emotional state. Let his feelings be his. Demonstrate a calm demeanor.
5. Visit the school and classroom (s) if possible. Walk the halls and locate the classroom(s) and note  landmarks along the way (the library, office, etc.) for both younger and older students. Allow time for  littles to check out the playground and playground equipment or bigs to locate their locker and then practice unlocking it.
6 Connect with another student. Encourage your student to connect with another regarding their schedules. Set a place to meet up for lunch on that first day.
7. Maintain a positive attitude. Express confidence in your child’s ability to handle the situation. This will transfer nicely to your child’s view of himself and his circumstances. If the parent communicates to the child he is capable, the child will be more confident and then more successful.

Plus one more:
Pray. Pray for and with your child for a smooth transition. Before my kids would leave the house I would give them the Aaronic blessing:  “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (found in Numbers 6: 24-26).

Help with the adjustment to build confidence.

We can  help our kiddos make the back-to-school  adjustment while building  confidence in their ability to handle the new situation. Act on and talk about these 7 (well 8) things  a week or so before school starts. If there is too much time before school begins, the anxiety will increase.

NOTE: Anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is the body’s way of preparing for an unknown, dangerous, or  stressful situation. Healthy stress motivates an individual to move forward and increases the brain’s ability to focus. There are those  cases where anxiety is bigger than what is typical. Get help if your child is debilitated by and pre-occupied with his fears.

Happy 2023-2024  school year!

For more help with anxiety coping mechanisms please check out Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. 

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash



© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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