Back-to-School Anxiety: Myth vs. Fact

January 6, 2020 at 5:00 AM
by East Bay Relationship Center

Just like adults who get a little anxious about going to their new workplace for the first time, children and teenagers also worry about every new school year and going back to school. But, unlike adults, whose fears usually are centered around what their new boss and co-workers will be like, children’s and teenagers’ back-to-school anxiety triggers involve concerns such as the following:

  • Not knowing anyone in their classes
  • Not liking any of (or being liked by) their teachers
  • Not fitting in or being liked in general
  • Performing poorly in school
  • Not liking their school
  • Being bullied
  • Getting lost

To help your child manage and overcome the pressure they are under, we think it’s important to address the myths and facts of back-to-school anxiety. This way, you’ll know exactly what to do and avoid in order not to aggravate the situation.

Myth: Anxiety attacks have similar symptoms.

Fact: How anxiety manifests itself may differ from person-to-person and is usually based on experience.

Depending on the individual, symptoms of anxiety attacks (including back-to-school anxiety) vary. These include: hyperventilation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, the urge to urinate, a racing heart, clammy hands, cold perspiration, chest pain, etc.

Your child may exhibit one or some of the above symptoms during a back-to-school anxiety attack. In this case, it’s important to help your child calm down by directing them to start breathing deeply, purposefully, and rhythmically until the episode passes.

Myth: Back-to-school anxiety is an exaggerated fear and meant to be dramatic.

Fact: Anxiety or panic attacks are involuntary, uncomfortable, and unforeseeable.

Know that when your child starts exhibiting any symptoms of an anxiety attack, they are not doing something that’s intentionally distracting, dramatic, and designed to excuse them from attending their classes. So if your child starts to show symptoms of stress and panic prior to going to school, calmly ask them what they need that can help them calm down. Better yet, have a crisis management plan in place designed to help your child control and overcome the anxiety attack.

Myth: Medicating can prevent or resolve back-to-school anxiety.

Fact: An anxiety attack may seem like a scary episode, but medication is usually unnecessary.

The best way you can help your child deal with a bout of anxiety or panic is to respect their wishes, even if it means you doing nothing. As always, the key is for you to remain calm and, if possible, help your child relax until the episode passes. Again, having a prepared plan of action for any bouts of anxiety can greatly help in alleviating the situation.

Help your child overcome back-to-school anxiety

As a parent, you may sometimes feel frustrated and helpless when your child expresses panic over the thought of going to school. Although you cannot magically get rid of your child’s fears, there are things you can do to help make going back to school a manageable and perhaps even a pleasant experience for your child:

  • Talk to your child about the source of their anxiety and encourage them to confide their fears in you.
  • Take a tour of the campus with your child before school starts.
  • Attend school orientation together with your child, and grab the opportunity to meet teachers, parents, and other school kids.  
  • Encourage your child to get to know their school better and participate in campus activities.
  • If you have a young child, set playdates with other parents and their kids.
  • When all else fails, reach out to support groups and qualified therapists.

Going back to school can prove to be a challenging time for some youngsters. So if your child needs help with managing their fears, do get in touch with us at East Bay Relationship Center. We have a team of professionals who are always ready to help.