Are you worried about going back to school? Many people wonder why they are nervous about the upcoming school year. Find out what might be causing your anxiety, as well as a few different ways you can cope with and overcome back-to-school stress.
Why Am I Nervous to Go Back to School?
Does the coming school year fill you with dread? You are not alone. When it comes to returning to school, some children are waiting by the door to get back into the classroom and see their friends. For other children, the thought of going back to school creates anxiety and stress. Nervousness about the new school year can come from different places. A few common reasons you might be nervous include:
Friends, Fears, and More
One of the most common reasons for having anxiety about going back to school comes from the people around you. During the previous school year, you and your friends were tight. However, over the summer, maybe you've both changed. For example, you might have grown taller, had weight changes, gotten glasses or braces, etc. You might be worried that they might not accept you into their friend group now. Or, you may be worried that they have grown close to others over the summer. Not knowing how your friends have changed, what they like now, or even if they have new friends can cause a lot of stress. But remember, everyone changes and grows. Your friends are changing, too.
Dealing With Bullies
Were you bullied last school year? Maybe someone gave you a hard time in class or said mean things about you to others. If so, you might be afraid that bullying will start again when the school year comes back around. Dealing with bullying in school can be a major stressor for many children and leave them with a ton of worries. Where am I going to sit at lunch? Who can I hang out with at break? It's important to remember that there are things you can do if you are being bullied or are worried about being bullied. It can be essential to tell a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust to help you deal with both the stress and the bullying itself.
Pandemic and Illness Concerns
COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic are leading causes of stress among children. In fact, The Lancet Journal of Child and Adolescent Health noted that COVID-19 caused a lot of fear and anxiety in children regarding returning to school. The fear of having a resurgence of COVID-19 or some other illness that shuts down schools is very real. Not only is this difficult for parents to deal with, but it's hard for kids to manage as well.
Kids may be worried that they might get sick at school and potentially bring it home to infect a family member. This is a fear that so many people have as they go out into the world every day. One way to protect yourself is to follow the safety guidelines put in place by your school. Remember, there are things you can do to stay healthy, like frequently washing your hands and using hand sanitizer throughout the day.
Having spent the entirety of the summer with your parents or caregiver makes going back to school difficult. At home during your break, you might have felt safe, cared for, and comfortable. However, going back to school can seem like the exact opposite of those things. You might worry about being separated from your loved ones as you transition back into school. Lots of kids have this concern. It can be hard to have a change in your routine and your environment.
Remember that your caregiver is only a phone call or text message away. Also, try to think about how the new school year is full of potential. Maybe you'll join a new club or try out for a team. This can help you find a new passion and make new connections, and you can even get your caregivers involved by inviting them to events.
As heartbreaking and utterly terrifying as they are, school shootings are very real occurrences. When you see this information on the news, it affects not only parents and school environments, but it can affect a child's mental health. In fact, as a student, you may have developed a fear or anxiety about returning to school because of them.
Many kids are aware of the statistics about school shootings happening in the U.S. And, you might even have been in an area near where a school shooting occurred. It's understandable for kids to be nervous about violence coming to their school. Talking to your parents and school teachers and administrators to understand more about how the school handles these types of threats may help. In addition, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers insight and information on ways to cope.
Starting a New School
Change is challenging. Are you switching to a whole new school district this year? What about transitioning from middle school to starting high school? If so, you might be worried about not knowing your teachers as well in this new school, or where the different classrooms are located. Don't worry. There are some things you can do to help yourself feel more comfortable.
Take a visit to the new school and get a feel for it. When orientation or back-to-school night come around and you have your list of classes, go and find them beforehand so that you aren't stressed on the first day. Also, many schools offer information about their teachers online. Scroll through your school's website and see what you can find. Even seeing your teacher's face might bring some relief.
What Back-to-School Anxiety Feels Like
How do you know if you're feeling anxiety? Anxiety is a feeling of constant worry or fear that can negatively impact a person's mental health and make their daily life more difficult. The truth is, anxiety can look and feel a bit different for everyone. Some symptoms of anxiety according to the National Institute of Mental Health are:
- Being easily fatigued
- Being irritable
- Difficulty controlling feelings/thoughts of worry
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Feeling restless or on-edge
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having headaches or stomachaches
Back-to-School Stress Tips
You're probably wondering what you can do to deal with the stress of going back to school. When it comes to dealing with stress, there are a lot of things parents and children can do to help combat it.
Talk About It
Talk to your parents, guardian, school counselor, or someone you trust about how you are feeling nervous or anxious about the new school year. Maybe you don't feel comfortable talking to an adult. That's okay. You can talk to your friends about it. Chances are, they may be feeling the same things you are. If you can't imagine talking to someone about it, write it down in a note. Then you can give the note to someone you trust. Don't keep the feelings bottled up inside. Sharing them with others is a good way to release some of the pressure.
Use Calming Strategies
Deep breathing is a fantastic way to calm yourself when you are feeling anxious. You can simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. You can also try picturing something that makes you happy in your mind, like how you feel when you're at your favorite place in the world. There are different ways you can try to calm down when you are feeling nervous. Some other ways to relieve your anxious feelings are:
- Paint or draw - here are some fun drawing prompts to get you started
- Start a journal - check out these creative journal prompts
It may seem difficult, but keeping a positive attitude can do a lot to help your nerves. In fact, many people even note that the feelings of nervousness and excitement are extremely similar. Parents can help out a lot by creating a positive environment at home. Make the start of a new school year an exciting and fun experience. For example, talk to your parents about having a back-to-school party. You might even invite your new classmates and old friends. You can also make a list of all the fun things you are looking forward to in the upcoming school year, such as exciting things you will learn and new friends you will make.
Create a Schedule
One of the most challenging things about returning to school is that everything becomes quite different than how it was during the break. There are routines and schedules that need to be followed in order to get you to school on time. To help ease into this, you might start this schedule before the new school year begins. For example, slowly start going to sleep earlier and preparing for school mornings. Parents and children can also develop new back-to-school traditions to make it more fun, such as having a special dinner the first night back, or packing a favorite lunch.
Familiarize Yourself With Your School Campus
If you are worried about going to a new school or a new building, take a test run. Take a family trip to the school. Find your classroom, lockers, etc. Walk through the building and get familiar with the different areas like the gym and bathrooms. By the time school starts, you'll be a pro at navigating the school campus.
Know You Aren't Alone
Going back to school can be a scary time for many kids. You are not alone in feeling nervous. A lot of the kids in your class are going to worry about changes, friends, bullying, and new teachers just like you are. It's normal. Going back to school can feel like you are heading into the unknown, so it's normal for it to feel scary. Turn to your friends and family to share your feelings and find comfort, and you might just find how common all of these fears really are.
Feeling Anxious About Going Back to School
Going back to school is tough for a million and one reasons. There's stress about getting good grades, new classes, new people, and maybe even a whole new environment. That can feel like a lot for anyone to handle on their own. The good thing is that you don't have to experience that transition all by yourself. Remember, you aren't alone. Talk to someone you trust. Make a plan for your first day of school and think about what your back-to-school schedule is going to look like. Little by little, you'll start feeling better about hearing that school bell ring.