TEN TIPS for Supporting Back to School Anxiety

Many children may be feeling anxious and unsettled due to starting a new school year or a new school.

These 10 tips can help:

  • Get Enough Sleep

A lack of sleep makes everything feel more overwhelming.  It can be difficult to adapt from a holiday time sleep schedule to a term time one.  Start the process before school starts with going to sleep and waking up a little earlier.  Enough sleep is essential to emotional wellbeing.

  • Eat Well

Like sleep, your body needs basic nourishment to be in place or we can become emotionally and physically fatigued.  Ensuring that our child is getting enough of the right kind of fuel is essential in tackling overwhelm and anxiety – including back to school anxiety.

  • Move More

Research has shown that people who exercise have lower levels of stress and feel more in control of themselves. Exercise is essential in helping us to connect with our bodies, help us to feel grounded and to burn off the excess energy that is generated by feelings of anxiety.

  • Preparation

Often, back to school anxiety arises from a fear of the unknown. This can be relevant when moving schools but even with the changes of a new school year at the same school. Help your child to get ready for the school year by having all their stationary, supplies and uniform ready.

Have a chat about who they may talk to on the first day and if they don’t know any other students, discuss how they can show people that they are open to being friendly.  This would include things such as smiling and making conversation.  For some children having a mental go to list of conversation starters can be very helpful.

  • Routine

Having a consistent daily routine can reduce anxiety by providing structure and predictability. Work together to create a schedule that includes time for homework, and time for relaxation and social activities.

Explain that because they have been out of routine for so long, it is natural to be feeling a bit unsettled and reassure them that being back in the routine of school will help to make them feel calmer and more in control.

  • Monitor Screen Time

Children are very aware of what others are doing as it is posted on social media and sometimes anxiety can feel contagious! Excessive screen time, especially on social media, can contribute to anxiety. Encourage healthy screen time limits and offline social interactions.

  • Communicate

Make sure they know they can talk to you anytime they feel anxious or overwhelmed. Being able to share their fears and discuss a plan for making them feel more secure will help to reduce anxiety.

  • Fear or Fact

When your child is discussing all the things that they are afraid of, encourage them to discuss this in detail and explore whether it is a fear (something that they worry will happen) or a fact (something that will objectively definitely happen). We don’t know what will definitely happen until it does – so it is usually a fear, not a fact.

  • Manage Expectations

Acknowledge that their anxiety is valid and to a large extent, expected. Avoid dismissing or belittling their concerns. Let them know that many people experience anxiety about school, and it’s okay to feel this way.  It is helpful to explain that they will feel a little anxious and unsettled until they get used to the routine, know their way around, have met their teachers, and get to know other students.  This is expected and is how most people feel, even if they don’t share their feelings with others.  Also, discuss that they are not anxious, but are FEELING anxious.  This is an important distinction as BEING anxious implies something that does not change, while feeling anxious implies that this can change.

  • Celebrate Little Wins

Recognise and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can boost self-esteem and reduce anxiety.


If you need more practical support, and are interested in learning how to support your children’s mental health, the POWER program has practical strategies to help you to understand and manage anxiety as well as a wealth of other supportive parenting tools. This program will help you to understand your child’s mental health needs as well as offer supportive and practical tools to teach them to value themselves and understand what underlies their anxieties relating to school. This course also contains a wealth of strategies to teach children to self-regulate as well as the strategies needed to manage each step of this process from physical awareness, to emotional awareness, challenging thoughts, changing habits, managing anxiety and anger, and becoming empowered to manage situations more easily. See our ‘courses’ page for more information.