managing school stress

Managing back to school stress: part 1

The idea of returning to school after the school holidays can be both an exciting and stressful time for young people and parents.

Some of the concerns that we usually hear children talk about include:

  • “Who’s going to be in my new class?”
  • “What’s my new teacher going to be like?”
  • “How will I get used to these new changes?” (For those transitioning from Pre-Primary to Year 1, or primary to high school)
  • “What if schoolwork is harder this year?”
  • “What impact will covid have on my schoolwork and exams?”
  • “How will I cope? What if I can’t keep up?”

Whether this will be your first year of school, or your 12th year back at school, this post may be helpful in refreshing some ideas on managing back to school stress.

Before school starts

Preparing for, and getting ready for school can be helpful in the lead up to the school term starting. Remember anything you do the night before school will help make tomorrow easier.

Consider turning some practical tasks into fun, joint activities. These may include:

  • Re-establishing and practicing school routines, for example, sleep and waking times.

  • Planning lunches, uniforms, books, making sure pencil cases are ready.

Managing big feelings about going back to school

It is normal to have some big feelings about going back to school, as a new school year often brings about lots of changes. These feelings can be experienced by both parents and young people. Often, it is helpful to have a conversation about these feelings, and provide a space for young people to talk about their concerns. During these conversations:

  • Provide support, validate and normalise these feelings, whilst instilling confidence in the school, and your child’s abilities to manage their day and enjoy school.

  • Remember that anxiety may show up physically in the form of stomach aches, headaches, and feeling tired. 

  • It may be helpful to write down your child’s worries, and help them categorise whether their worries are ones that a parent or teacher could help them with, and assist them in developing an action plan for managing those worries.

  • Identify a trusted friend, teacher or support person that your child can talk to whilst they are at school.

  • Reflect back on a time where your child has been able to manage school well, and encourage them to think of past strategies that have been helpful.

It’s normal for parents to also have big feelings about their children returning to school, or if their child is starting school for the very first time. Go easy on yourself in the first few weeks and avoid planning any events that could increase stress levels. Remind yourself that you are only human, and strive for progress not perfection, particularly if things do not go to plan (they rarely do!). Reach out to other parents, or friends and family to share the load, and remember you’re not alone. 

Remember that some level of stress and anxiety about returning to school is normal for young people, however if you’re noticing your child is reluctant to attend school, or they’re having difficulties engaging over the first few weeks, then the best time to seek help is now and our team of highly skilled and well-experienced psychologists are here to support you and your child.

Written by Dr Katie Astley and Dr Janice Wong, Clinical Psychologists.


More information

If you would like to learn more about managing school stress or to book an appointment with Dr Janice Wong or another one of our experienced clinical psychologists, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.

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