Back-to-school anxiety is very common, and this year, we expect that many children will be feeling anxious about returning to school after such an unusual school year. To support caregivers and parents, we’ve put together a few simple tips that can help manage anxiety in children going back to school.

To read all the tips, click here.

One way that parents can support kids in getting ready for the first few days of school is to help them visualize it. Consider preparing kids for the following elements of the first day/week of school.

The building.

Drive or walk past the school in the days leading up to the first day. Take the route you’ll take on a typical day, pointing out anything they’ll normally see. If you can walk up to the building a peek in the windows or can get onto the property and check out the playground, give them time to explore.

The morning routine.

If kids have been going to bed later and sleeping in later over the summer, it’s a good idea to get on to a sleep schedule that mimics the school year schedule. About a week before school begins, have kids go to bed when they typically would, and have them start waking up at their school year wakeup time. Whatever morning routines will happen during the year, do a practice run. If that means waking up by alarm clock or by a parent coming in the room, start that routine. Serve them a typical school year breakfast.

What they’ll take to school.

Include kids in the school supply shopping process if possible. Allow them to choose a backpack and/or lunch box that matches their taste or interests. If you’re getting supplies from a store or online, allow them to choose when options exist, such as the color of folders or binders. When supplies arrive or are unpacked from the store, let them look through all of the items so they know what they’ll be taking with them into the school year.

Any details you have about the school day.

There may be details that parents have about the school day that children don’t. If you get any communication at all, through messages from the school, virtual meetings, back to school nights, etc., consider sharing some of the details with your child. Things like who their teacher will be, which classroom they’ll be in, what specials they have at their school, what time they eat lunch, how many times a day they have recess, if they know any of their fellow classmates, where their desk is, etc.

For children who are anxious, details like this can provide a sense of grounding. When children know exactly what to expect, the anxiety in their brain can begin to settle. It’s important to remind kids that things won’t always go according to plan, and that there will be times that they’ll have to be flexible. But in general, the more information and the more preparation, the better. It may seem like overkill to an adult, but to a child, it can make a big difference.

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