Back to school anxiety: How to help your child, or yourself, navigate those feelings

MADISON, Wis. — A change in routine sometimes means a change in behavior, but while some are positive, others could be a sign of something else, such as anxiety.

If you’ve noticed your child starting to feel more down, or sudden changes in eating habits, it could be a sign that they’re struggling with the back to school transition. For parents noticing these behaviors, SSM Health Physician Roopa Shah says to check in, but to be intentional in how you do it.

“Just letting them talk without having to feel like you have to solve it for them,” says Shah, “Really just listening to them is a lot of time what kids need just so they can air out their worries and what’s on their mind. You can offer gentle suggestions and solutions, but avoid saying things like ‘Hey everything’s going to be okay’. Just validate their feelings, something like ‘that must feel really worrisome’ or ‘that must feel really scary’ or ‘I understand how you’re feeling’. Things like that can just make kids feel like they’re being heard, and that can make all the difference.”

Dr. Shah also points out that parents can feel anxiety with back to school, too. To cope, she recommends that parents focus on self-care, practicing mindfulness, and moments of quiet throughout the day.

Our Time for Kids: Recipe for Health team is asking what you want to hear about. Let us know what health topics you’re interested in, or share your family’s health story with us, online at ssmhealth.com/timeforkids.