Back to School Anxiety

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Youth Trust Wellbeing Practitioner Jess talks about how you can support your young person if they are worried about going back to school…

The summer is drawing to an end, so that ‘Sunday panic’ is more amplified than ever as a six weeks break creeps to a close.  Just as some young people may feel excited to return to school, many will experience different anxieties about what is next for them: Will I like my teacher? Who is in my class? What will GCSE’s be like? How busy will the canteen be?

As caregivers, it can be incredibly difficult to support a young person when you do not have the answers to their worries, but there are ways of providing support for these feelings:

  1. Listen and accept the worry: As much as some worries may seem completely far-fetched (what if there IS a tidal wave at break time though?), to your child, they are very real and having an impact on how they feel. As soon as they know they can be honest with you and have your support, they will feel comforted.
  2. Keep it factual: anxiety can be an uncomfortable feeling and can let our minds wander to all kinds of places. When discussing your young person’s worries, try to acknowledge how hard it is for them to feel this way, but try not to reassure. Reassurance is very comforting in the moment but can lead into a cycle of needing reassurance to cope.
  3. Build resilience: Gently introduce tasks that may be connected to the worries – for example, trying on new uniform, catching up with course work, even waking up at school time. Explore how these make your child feel and then repeat them until you notice the anxiety decrease. To support the decline of the anxiety in the moment, research grounding techniques and see what your child finds helpful.
  4. Discuss the positives: seeing friends every day, making a mess in chemistry class, discovering how talented you are at music (or having a laugh whilst realising keyboard is not your strong point). Reminders of things that children have enjoyed in the past is a helpful tool to ease their worries and remind them of things they have liked.
  5. Keep a perspective: school can feel like a countdown to adulthood, and therefore a countdown to working life, university, exams… Let your child know that they will have your love and support whatever they choose, and school is just one way of learning.
  6. Speak to teachers: If your child is anxious and you both decide it would be helpful for a teacher to know, then contact them prior to school restarting. Teachers are very used to these concerns and will know who is available to support your child in school if they should need it.
  7. Seek professional help. If you, or your child, feels that they need further support with their anxiety then speak to your GP and they will be able to refer you to the appropriate services.

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