Back to School: Easing Anxiety & First Day Fears

Summer always seems to fly by, and it is already time to start getting ready for the new school year. Around this time, parents may begin noticing signs of anxiety in their children or teens about starting the new school year. Anytime a change is approaching, it is normal for a certain degree of anxiety to occur, whether it’s within a child or an adult.

To make the transition back to school easier for families, it’s important for parents to learn helpful tips for reducing worries or resistance in their children, such as:

  • Slowly integrate school-year routines back into the family’s schedule several weeks in advance. This could mean scheduling activities that involve waking up and getting ready earlier than normal for summer.
  • Discuss what your child’s new schedule will look like ahead of time so they feel a little more comfortable with it, including their morning getting-ready routine. If they are old enough to be changing classes, talk through which classes they’ll go to when.
  • Arrange a visit to the school before classes start so they can get the lay of the land and where they’ll be going each day.
  • Give them something to look forward to after the first day of school. That could mean cooking one of their favorite meals for dinner or scheduling time to watch their favorite TV show when they get home.

If your child or teen’s anxiety about going back to school is becoming severe enough that they start worrying weeks ahead of time, experience gastrointestinal distress, are unable to complete normal tasks, have difficulty getting up in the morning or won’t leave the house, it is time to seek the help of a medical professional to evaluate and identify underlying issues. Fortunately, Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral health professionals dedicated to helping and counseling children in the community who are struggling with the transition back to school and other behavioral health issues compounding the situation.

Spokesperson Background:

Jenna Mendelson, PhD, is a licensed psychologist at LeBauer HealthCare at Oak Ridge and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. Dr. Mendelson specializes in developmental disabilities, especially autism spectrum disorders (ASD). She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She completed a fellowship at the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and an internship with the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University/Children’s Hospital of Atlanta.