Tag Archive for: school anxiety

By Kelly McClarnon, LCSW – December 29, 2021 –

Christmas break is underway! As a Youth First Social Worker, I have met with several students who have difficulty transitioning back to the classroom after weekends and school breaks. My observation is that many of these kids also struggle with feelings of anxiety.

The pandemic has caused many children to complete schoolwork from home due to school closures, quarantines, and parental choice to avoid exposure to the virus. Spending long periods of time at home in a more relaxed environment is much different than a structured school setting with increased rules and expectations. At school, increased peer interaction can amplify these feelings of anxiousness in some children. 

Below is a list of things parents can do when their child is having difficulty transitioning back to school:

  1. Have a consistent routine at home. Children thrive on routine. Making sure they know what’s coming next can help kids feel more secure and make transitions smoother.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. When children feel tired, transitions can become more difficult. Being rested is essential to optimal school functioning and improved mood and mental health.
  • Talk with them in the car on the way to school or before they leave. Ask them how they are feeling. Try to avoid leading questions like, “Are you anxious about going to school today?” Instead, try saying, “How are you feeling today?” This gives them the opportunity to identify how they are feeling and process those feelings prior to arriving.
  • Try listening to uplifting music, talking, or praying to distract them from negative thoughts. If your child rides the bus, allow them to take a journal with positive messages they can read on the way to school. 
  • Reassure your child that it’s not actually the situation (school) that’s causing them to feel scared, nervous, or anxious – it’s the thoughts they have about it. 
  • Sometimes kids have legitimate reasons to want to avoid going to school such as problems with other peers, mental health concerns, and learning disabilities/academic struggles that make it difficult for them to keep up in school. Addressing these issues can lessen a child’s fears by knowing they have the necessary supports to help them succeed.
  • Do not allow them to stay home from school even if they are having a difficult morning. This will only reinforce that avoiding school is acceptable when feeling upset and will make it even more difficult for them to go the next time school is in session.
  • Praise your child when they transition to school successfully. Encourage them that facing their fears will actually reduce their anxiety in the long run. Teach them that uncomfortable feelings and emotions will pass.

Some difficulty with transitions is completely normal. It’s even hard for adults to go back to work after some time off. However, if you are having continual issues with your student transitioning to school, contact the school social worker. They are there to help identify why your child is struggling and will help you address this difficulty.

By Jessie Smith, MSW – September 2, 2020 –

Do you have a child who has just started kindergarten? Along with parents/guardians experiencing a range of emotions during this time, so do incoming students. Throughout my time working in an elementary school, I have had the privilege to observe this transition and guide students through this exciting time in their lives.

While a brand new classroom and making new friends can be exciting for a kindergartener, with these excitements come routines, workload, and rules. Expectations placed on students can be daunting and confusing at times. In the first few weeks of school, there are a few tips parents can utilize to help better transition their kindergartner.

  1. Routine. Try to create a routine that includes both a bedtime and a wakeup time. Many professionals stress the importance of scheduled sleep routines for kindergarten-aged children. Having a consistent wakeup time can help children adjust to beginning their day earlier than they may have in the past. Creating charts can be a useful visual and an interactive reference to aid families when trying to maintain a schedule with their child. Morning charts can include activities like getting dressed, eating breakfast, and brushing teeth. Afternoon charts can reflect tasks to complete such as eating a snack, completing certain chores, or working on homework.

  2. Expectations. A major part of being a student is learning to follow regulations and classroom rules. This aspect of schooling can be particularly difficult for incoming kindergartners. For some students, this may be the first time they must ask to use the restroom, walk in a line, or be required to remain quiet during appropriate times. Introducing standard “school rules” at home can help your child meet teacher expectations as well as reduce student stress. Practice rules like raising hands, staying in a designated seat, and keeping hands/feet to self. Obviously you can’t always implement these rules in your home life, but having conversations about these expectations and engaging in role playing can strengthen your child’s ability to adapt to similar rules in the classroom.

  3. Exploring Emotions. Along with getting used to new routines and regulations, your child may experience new emotions that they need time to process. Talk with your child. Ask what part of their day made them the happiest. Were there any times they felt upset or overwhelmed? Helping children identify their emotions can also promote conversations that can help you monitor and regulate the feelings your child is experiencing.

  4. Discipline. All of these new changes can be overwhelming for little brains. It’s important to remember that your child is learning. I speak to many parents who are concerned because they have received a note or a phone call from an educator to address a concern about their child’s progress or behavior. When this occurs, it is often because teachers are trying to be proactive and communicate with parents to eliminate more issues in the future. It is a good idea to collaborate and set expectations in the home that are the same as expectations in the classroom. Keep in mind how different their day-to-day environment has become while they try to familiarize their surroundings and find their place in the classroom.  

The start of kindergarten for your child is a bittersweet moment in a parent’s life and Youth First is here to help with any questions you might have. Please reach out to your school’s Youth First Social Worker or communicate with your teacher if you need assistance navigating the transition. It really is a team effort.

By Abby Betz, LSW – August 20, 2020 –

It’s the time of year (again) that most of us look forward to and some of us dread—back-to-school!  It can be difficult for children to make the transition from the carefree, fun days of summer to the everyday grind of school life, especially when students have not been in school buildings for many months due to a worldwide pandemic. 

Transition is a common occurrence for young people, and most do adjust well—but there are some who find themselves unable to appropriately adapt to seasonal and other life changes. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 1 in 8 children. When anxiety begins to cause physical and emotional distress, parents and guardians can respond by employing some simple yet effective coping strategies to help alleviate fears and create a framework for a successful start to the school year.

Here are some general tips:

  • Develop a routine or schedule. Even just a few repeated actions, like going to bed at a regular time, can have a calming effect.
  • Make sure your child is getting plenty of rest and maintains a well-balanced diet.
  • Encourage your child to express their fears or worries with you; continue to remind your child that it is normal to have concerns.
  • Avoid giving your child reassurance (i.e., “Don’t worry about it so much! Everything will be just fine!”); instead, encourage your child to problem-solve and make a plan to act on specific fears.
  • Role-play different scenarios with your child so he/she will know how to respond when placed in uncomfortable situations.
  • Model appropriate responses and focus on developing healthy coping skills for yourself.
  • Focus on the positive rather than dwelling on negative thoughts/feelings; try to replace negative emotions with something positive.
  • Praise your child and reward them for efforts at positive behavior.

There may be times when your child is in need of more extensive services to help them cope with anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 80% of children with diagnosable anxiety disorders do not seek out or receive treatment. 

Moreover, research has shown that untreated children are at higher risk of performing poorly in school, engaging in substance abuse, and isolating themselves from peers and other social situations.  As a parent or guardian, it is important to heed the warning signs of anxiety that may cause abnormal physical and emotional distress and seek out the proper treatment for your child.