Back to school anxiety in kids is common but can be eased with the right tools and support. In this article, we are going to look at the issues and run through our top tips for coping.

No matter how much they love learning, some children will experience back to school anxiety when September rolls around. This can be for a lot of reasons – early mornings again, feeling like they might’ve fallen behind and are worried about catching up or even just the anxiety of seeing so many people again. 

Whatever reason or reasons your child might have for being anxious, there are a few ways you can help with their anxieties about going back to school.

Helping with anxiety in kids

There are a few ways you can help if your child is experiencing back to school anxiety. The key things are: 

  • Listen to what they’re worried about

  • Try to understand and see it from their point of view

  • Think about ways together that you can help them

  • Be prepared for back to school yourself

That last part is particularly important! Making sure that you’re ready as a parent or guardian for back to school can help reduce a lot of stress for both of you – for example, making sure that your child has all the right equipment for their classes will be a big stress buster when it comes to the first day back. 

It could be worth making a back to school checklist as part of your anxiety coping strategies with your child. Calmly plan together what your child needs to go back to school so they can readjust to school as easily as possible.  

Listen, understand and plan

Understandably, back to school anxiety can actually be a little stressful for you as a parent or guardian. It’s difficult to see your child upset, and you’ll want to resolve their problems as quickly as possible. 

Just make sure you don’t jump to any conclusions that your child is being “difficult” – yes, some children aren’t going to be super happy about going back to school after the summer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have genuine concerns about it. 

Take a moment to sit down with them and talk about it, and be a good listener. Ask them to tell you specifically what they’re anxious about. Sometimes just talking about it can provide a bit of relief. 

As an adult, and a parent or guardian, you’ve probably had a lot of your own experiences with anxiety and worry. Try to be as empathetic as you can with your child, see it from their point of view – school makes up a significant amount of their day-to-day life, and if something is bothering them it can make them feel a little trapped or helpless. 

So, it’s important to learn how to deal with back to school anxiety. But what’s the best way to go about that?

How to deal with back to school anxiety

Every child is different, so their way of coping be completely different to other children.

However, back to school anxiety is a very particular type of anxiety, as the name suggests, and it only really comes around once a year. This means there are some tried and true methods of dealing with it, in addition to any specific coping techniques you come up with for your child.

But before we can focus on coping tools, it’s important to identify the issue.

Signs that your child has back to school anxiety

In the lead-up to September, your child may start to show a change in attitude. You may notice that they seem a little bit down or distracted. There’s a good chance that your child might be getting anxious about going back to school, so keep an eye out for these symptoms as the school term starts to come around again:

  • Becoming very dependent, or clingy, particularly for younger children

  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleeping patterns

  • Changes in appetite or poor appetite

  • Overly tired all the time, even after sleeping

  • Difficulty with concentration and memory

  • Seemingly particularly grumpy all the time

  • Physical symptoms like tummy aches or headaches

  • Losing confidence.

Recognising these signs is an important step in helping your child, so if you spot any of these signs talk to your child about whether they’re worried about going back to school or if there’s something else.

Possible sources of stress causing back to school anxiety in kids

Understanding the sources of potential stress is a good way to help. After all, if you understand what your child is struggling with, you can come up with better strategies to cope with anxiety.  

GCSEs and exams

GCSEs and exams can be a huge source of stress for your child. When it comes to  it’s important to develop coping strategies that help them deal with the stress that comes with their GCSE exams. That includes managing the stress of results day!

If your child is struggling with exam stress leading into their last years in school, make sure they have access to exam support. Even just a few tips or a good exam revision timetable can make all the difference in dealing with exam stress. 

Separation Anxiety

Many children can experience back to school separation anxiety. If you think your child is struggling, learn how to help a child with separation anxiety at school.


Sadly, there is a chance that your child’s back to school anxiety could be a result of bullying. If your child is experiencing bullying, it’s important to recognise the signs of it. A lot of the signs can be similar to back to school anxiety, but particularly with cyberbullying it’s good to monitor your child’s time using their phone or computers to access social media. Excessive use of either, or irritability when using either can be a sign of cyberbullying. 

If your child is worried about bullying, talk to them about it and try to come up with coping strategies to empower them against bullying. This can be deciding together to limit social media use or get support from a trusted teacher at school. 

How to talk about anxiety with your child and stress in school

Talking about anxiety in school is the first and most important step to managing those feelings. Let’s take a look at the ways that you can talk to your children about anxiety, whether it’s about going back to school or in general – it’s all good practice for a healthy relationship with your child and their mental health.  

Talk about coping strategies 

An important first step in coping with anxiety and stress is to come up with coping strategies together. These can be mind based strategies, physical or soothing strategies – Barnardos have a lot of resources for children experiencing back to school anxiety. 

Keep calm and listen

It’s really important that you listen to your child and take their feelings seriously. While some of the worries they’re experiencing might not seem like a big deal to you, remember that school is a huge part of your child’s life. So let them explain what they’re going through, judgment free.


Validate their feelings

After listening to what your child is going through, validate those feelings by telling them that you understand and can see how that’s a difficult situation for them. Make sure your child knows that their concerns are taken seriously, so they feel like they can talk to you about what they’re going through. 


Encourage them to speak up about their needs

Part of validating your child’s feelings is ensuring they feel that they can speak about what they’re going through, and what they feel they need to manage that stress. Of course, not going to school isn’t really an option when it comes to their needs, but you can talk to them about what coping strategies they think would work for them in managing their anxiety. 

You can take this a step further and talk to your child’s school if you think they might need some kind of adaptation to help them with school if it’s having a huge impact on their mental health.


Remind them that they’re not alone

Struggling with anxiety about school can feel like an isolating experience for children. So, keep reminding them that you’re there to help them. Talk to them openly and honestly about anxiety and that it’s something you’ve experienced too so that they know it’s not just them. By validating their feelings and encouraging them to speak to you about their back to school anxiety, you’ll be reminding your child that they’re not alone in what they’re going through. 

In addition to yourself, remind your child that there are people at school they can talk to. Whether that’s their favourite teachers, school librarians or other staff at the school, they’re all there to look after your child’s wellbeing.


Celebrate small wins

After their first day back at school, make that first afternoon back home special for your child and do something small to celebrate like making their favourite meal or watching their favourite movie together. Try to keep up with occasionally celebrating your child having a good day at school, and maybe encourage them to keep a diary so they can recall the good days.


Keep looking after yourself as well

Remember that the best way to look after your child in any situation is to keep looking after yourself. Before they go back to school, start preparing both yourself and your child early for September so that you can limit the last-minute stress of going back to school. We’ve got plenty of back to school advice to help you, so in between now and then, make sure you’re getting the rest you need and looking after yourself. 

Can tuition help with back to school anxiety?

If your child is worried about their performance in school or that they’re falling behind, it can cause a lot of anxiety, particularly in the run up to September. So it might be worth considering if some extra tuition could help with your child’s anxiety. 

The Explore Learning team will help build up their confidence by getting to know them and working with them in a way that best suits their learning, so they can go back to school feeling ready to learn. Want to learn more about back to school anxiety? Explore our back to school nerves resources.

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