How to Handle Your Child's Back-to-School Anxiety

by Jennifer Thorson on September 10, 2019

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My two older children have always loved going back to school. But my third-born is different. 

For the first two weeks of Kindergarten, he would cry and ask for us to stay in class with him. Even now, entering the second grade, he tells me that his stomach hurts or that he’s too tired. 

The problem for him isn’t with bullies or schoolwork that’s too difficult. It’s a feeling of anxiety that grips him each day. 

Do you have a child who struggles like this?

We know our kids are safe in God's hands, and although it isn't always easy to "let go and let God", we can know for certain that His Word says it is true!

He tells us that He'll never leave or forsake your child (Hebrews 13:5) and that His right hand will guide their going out and coming in (Psalm 121:8).

Even still, we want to know how to help our anxious child as they begin a new school year.

Let’s talk about four things we can do to help!

How to Handle Your Child's Back-to-School Anxiety

Pray for them. This is the first and probably most obvious step to take, but it’s really the key one to start with when dealing with back-to-school anxiety. Take some time each morning, either before they get on the bus or on the way to drop-off to pray specifically over each child. Choose a Scripture for the year to represent who God is to your child in their anxiety (such as Psalm 121 or Hebrews 13:5 as I mentioned above) and pray that Scripture over them out loud.

Or join this 10-day back-to-school prayer challenge to help you be specific with your prayers over your kids! 

Talk out specific situations with them so you can get at the source of what’s wrong. Because our kids are out of our direct supervision during the day, things can happen. Maybe there’s a situation that took place last school year that’s making them anxious or perhaps they’re not sure what to think of their new teacher. After all, they spend a lot of hours with students and staff, so we want to help our kids adjust to that in any way we can! 

I’ve found it helpful to ask our kids three questions at the beginning of each school year:

  1. Is there anything you’re feeling nervous about? 
  2. Is there anything that you’re wondering about but are afraid to ask?
  3. What is one thing you’re excited about doing (at recess, in class, etc)?

Those questions aren’t anything groundbreaking, but they may help your child to open up and offer chances for additional conversation. Don’t dismiss their fears or concerns. Validate them while also responding with truth from God’s Word.

Help them find the positive. Take them to school early for an open house if you can, to introduce them to their teacher and classroom. If the anxiety sets in after the school year has begun, talk with them about the good things that are a part of their day - the chance to see friends, read good books, go to gym class - whatever it is that appeals to them. Remind your child that you are always there to talk and that God’s presence will be with them. If your child is older, ask them to take one day at a time and report to you about any anxiety they experienced as well as one positive thing about the day to help them focus on what is good.

Let someone know. It might be helpful to inform a school teacher, nurse or counselor that your child is struggling. There are probably ways they can help during the day that you may not think of. It’s possible that there could be a learning disorder or separation anxiety at play that your child is nervous to talk to you about but may be willing to reveal to a teacher or counselor. Plus, if your child is in a Christian school, that teacher or counselor can pray for them too! Rally prayer support around your child from other special people in their life too.

Thankfully, for most kids, the new school year anxieties will eventually settle down and your child will feel more comfortable in their surroundings. Until that time, these tips will help your child to know that you (and God!) are always with them and caring for them, waiting with open arms and compassionate words at the end of each school day.

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