Parents know their children better than anyone else. One good tip for parents is to watch out for changes that are not wanted, especially as we approach heading back to school after such a rough year in 2020.

If parents notice their child is suddenly not sleeping or eating well, they become a little more irritable, sad, clingy, display frequent anger outbursts, and show a disinterest in things they normally like to do, these are normally the signs something is up.

Sometimes children will complain of headaches and stomach aches and having a quick check-up about these concerns with your G.P is always recommended. If parents can act with support a little quicker during these times, it can make a big difference to their child’s mental and physical wellbeing.

5 tips to ease back to school anxiety

  • Note your attitude – your child certainly will. Children can absorb subtle messages from parents about how they are feeling or how difficult a task may be. Children learn best by observing others, especially their parents. Stay calm, talk to someone about your worries, and be positive and realistic about your child’s return to school.
  • Routine is key. Children respond well to a consistent routine and it helps them feel safe and develop life skills. Kickstart school routines (especially bedtime and morning routine) as soon as possible and make it an easier transition for you and your children.
  • Empathise. Listen, validate, and normalise your child’s feelings – ‘I know this is really hard for you. It’s normal to feel anxious’ rather than, ‘You’ll be fine. Don’t worry’ – this just reassures your child and makes anxiety worse. For some children extra support may be needed like arranging a meeting with a ‘buddy’ or a friend to help them transition a little easier.
  • Boost mind and body. Make sure your child is eating and sleeping well to maximise energy and focus and exercising to lift mood.
  • Reward brave behaviour. The best way children learn to reduce their anxiety is to face their fear, and they also learn they can cope again the next time. After your child finishes their first day at school, express to them – ‘I know you were feeling anxious about going to school today. I’m really proud you stayed at school all day.’ Highlighting your child’s bravery and effort will only boost your child’s confidence and belief in what they are capable of.

Dr Emmanuella Murray is a Clinical Psychologist who has been practicing for over 10 years. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, adults, and couples. Dr Emmanuella Murray has contributed to various online magazine sites and often presents on an assortment of topics to a variety of professionals and community groups.