back to school anxiety ottawa

Staying Ahead of Your Child’s Back to School Anxiety


As August barrels forward and the Back to School flyers start arriving en masse, your child may be starting to feel mixed emotions towards returning to school. Whether your child is packing their backpack for their first day of kindergarten, or making the transition from junior high to high school, anxiety and excitement are likely to exist in equal measure. What can you do as a parent to help your child transition back to school? Family counselling is about making sure every member of your family has the support system they need to flourish. Leading up to the new school year, spend some time during your family counselling appointments discussing strategies to get the whole team ready for another academic year.

Get Back To Bed Times

Over the course of the summer, regularly enforced bedtimes can end up going the way of the do-do. That’s not bad parenting, it’s just embracing longer, summery days! Now is the time to start getting bedtimes back on track. That way, come the first day of school your scholar is well rested. You might consider introducing a new, ever so slightly later bedtime. Like most children, your child probably associates a later bedtime with growing up. Take this opportunity to include your child in the conversation and arrive at a new bedtime. Depending on the age and disposition of your child even adding a 15 minute in bed and teeth brushed reading time can make bedtime more attractive.

ottawa anxiety counsellingStart a Tradition

Before school starts this year, think about starting a parent-child tradition. When deciding what to do, consider making it a permanent fixture in your back to school career. Instead of potentially dreading the first day back at school, your child will have this adventure to look forward to that marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Maybe it’s going out for their favourite meal or squeezing in one last summer camping trip. Either way, get your child involved in the decision making process.

Plan for Back To School Together

For some reason, that first day back at school has a habit of sneaking up on us. Labour Day weekend plans get first priority, and then all of a sudden it’s time to find the lunch bags and thermoses. One way to ease your child’s anxiety about returning to school is to gradually ease into it. Spend the month of August purchasing school supplies, shopping for a few new outfits and replacing backpacks, and running shoes as necessary. If it’s within your budget, consider making one meaningful purchase to bring in the new (school) year. Maybe it’s an on-trend pair of shoes, or a pair of headphones for the walk to school.

school anxiety counsellingPractice Makes Perfect

For older children entering junior high or high school, the actual logistics of getting to school, finding their locker, and getting to their classes on time could be causing them stress. Depending on your child, they might not be letting you know about their anxiety. Pay close attention to the way your child is talking (or avoiding talking) about school. While some children may appreciate a direct conversation on their stresses and anxieties, other children might just need to know you understand them and are there when they need support. Before the first day of school, spend some time talking about how they will get to school. Make sure they understand how the first day of school will go, and who they can speak to at school should they run into any obstacles. If possible, arrange a visit to a new school before the first day of class.

To learn more about how the government of Ontario suggests you prepare your child for school, read here.