Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Tips to Help Back-to-School Anxiety

Did you know that back-to-school anxiety can happen in January as well as September?

There can be a number of reasons why children might feel anxious about going back to school after the Christmas break. Some children may worry about returning to their academic responsibilities, such as tests and assignments. And some may have had a longer break at home and missed the start of the new school term due to illness - as the winter flu viruses and throat infections do the rounds.

Other children may be concerned about fitting in with their classmates or maintaining friendships. Still others may be anxious about returning to the structure and routine of school after the freedom and relaxation of the holiday break.  

And it's also possible that children may be anxious about returning to school because of negative experiences they have had in the past, such as being bullied or struggling academically.  

It's important for parents and caregivers to be aware of these potential sources of anxiety, and to work with children to address any concerns they may have.

What can we do?

But what can we do if we think our child is struggling with the new routine of a new year or new term? Book of Beasties CEO and Mental Wellbeing expert Craig Fearn has this to say:

“Parents, caregivers and family members may notice children showing nervousness about new routines or social interactions,” says Craig. “Back-to-school jitters are not unusual, and will often ease after a couple of weeks as the new routine is established. But sometimes anxiety is a cause of real distress and we need to be aware of the red flags to look out for.”

Anxiety Red Flags

Being aware of these red flags and changes to behavior can help identify a child who is experiencing anxiety to the point of distress. But for some children, transitioning into a new term is more uncomfortable than stressful. And most families need a helping hand to reduce stress at the start of a new school term.

With family mental wellbeing in mind, Craig offers this advice: “When families and care givers recognise the stress that change can cause in a child, or children, they are more likely to respond more positively if day-to-day stress gets out of control.  

“Post-Christmas is a really common time for families to feel everyday stress a little more deeply, so going back to basics will really help.

“It’s particularly important to be well rested, and spend time outdoors. And while screens are tempting and often a child’s preferred choice of after-school entertainment, spending time with your child that isn’t homework or reading practice is beneficial to all of you.”

So with screen-free time in mind, here are the Book of Beasties team’s Top Tips to keep the transition to a new Spring term stress-free.

1 Explore Nature

Whatever the weather, there is lots to explore outside. And even in cold or wet weather, there is always a good mood boost from time in the fresh air, and this can be as short as a walk to school or a running race to the end of the road and back. Exercise in the fresh air fires up endorphins and can also help with a restful night’s sleep - which is a bonus for everyone at home!

2 Night time Routine

Winding down at the end of a busy day with a regular routine is a really positive way to prepare for a night of restful sleep. And without a good bedtime routine, it can be hard for babies, children and teenagers to settle to sleep. But as well as pre-bedtime baths, stories and warm drinks, night time routines can start a little earlier, perhaps with 15 minutes playing quietly with toys after dinner, or half an hour playing a family game.

3 Accept extra time

Christmas is a busy time that can be stressful, but parents can sometimes overlook that it’s also a time of year when families spend a lot of time in each other’s company, sometimes with extended family members or friends. So, the first weeks of the new year when we’re back at school, work and other routines are also a time of adjusting to spending more time apart . There is no golden rule here because every family routine is different, but simply acknowledging that children are adjusting to this loss of 1:1 time and making a small effort to find a few extra moments together can really help.

4 Play a game

You won’t be surprised to learn that board games and card games are well used and well loved by the Beasties team and our families. Family games that don't involve screens help develop soft skills like teamwork and problem solving. But spending time in each other’s company without distractions sometimes has to be practiced, and after school holidays when new routines are being established is a really good time to start to create this new family habit.

Did you know that Book of Beasties HOME Edition is getting ready to launch?

Make sure you’ve signed up to our newsletter to be the first to know when it lands. Register here or learn more about how our tools help parents, teachers and caregivers to navigate difficult conversations about mental wellbeing here.