Overcome back-to-school anxiety with five tips from Peel board social workers

[Presented by the Peel District School Board]

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As we head into another school year, parents and guardians may begin to notice signs that their children are experiencing anxious type behaviour about heading back to the classroom. With more than 155,000 students returning to Peel District School Board schools on Sept. 5, the board is offering tips on how to help children cope with beginning-of-the-year anxiety.

"The transition back to class as summer ends can be an exciting time, but it can also be a stressful time for some families," says Jim Van Buskirk, chief social worker for the Peel board. "Feelings of anxiousness about school can be very real—children may experience separation anxiety, be afraid of riding the bus or may experience nervousness about the courses they're taking. Acknowledging fears and offering support helps students navigate the back-to-school transition. Like school staff, families can make the transition less daunting by preparing their children both emotionally and physically for a great start to the new school year."

Consider the following tips to help with the transition:

1. Ease back into a routine

Before school starts, prepare children for the upcoming transition by getting back to regular school routines. Establish earlier bed times, plan mornings in advance and discuss after-school activities. Parents/guardians may also want to discuss what will happen the next day with their child before they head to bed so that they're prepared for a new day.  

2. Become familiar with the school

Being informed can help reduce anxiety in children and parents. Try to give children as much exposure to their school as possible. Visit the school website. Walk or drive to the school, so that children get used to the commute. Rehearse the drop-off, and spend time on the playground. Go through teens' timetables together or review Peel's parent guide to high school.

3. Share positive, personal school experiences

Parents/guardians should share their own school experiences—the activities they enjoyed, what they learned and how that impacted their lives. Children enjoy hearing stories from their parents' childhoods because it helps normalize the nervousness they may be feeling and offers reassurance.

4. Connect your child with friends

A familiar face can make all the difference when heading back to school. Refresh last year's relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or a school carpool. Visits to the playground with neighbours and friends can help children feel more comfortable when they reconnect with their peers at school.

5. Parents are not alone

If a child's anxious behaviour persists, speak with their teacher(s), principal or vice-principal, or a family doctor. Parents and guardians can also review tip sheets on the board's website and get involved in their child's education in a variety of ways that support success. Other back-to-school resources are available from Kids Help Phone and other community partners like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The Peel board is proud to serve approximately 155,000 students in kindergarten to grade 12. With 257 schools in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, the Peel board is committed to inspiring success, confidence and hope in each student.