A Blog From Your Kaiser Permanente Physicians

Mom seeing daughter off to school

7 Tips to Calm Back-to-School Jitters

Be it kindergarten, middle school, or high school, the start of school can cause jittery feelings in our kids. And, these jitters may be worse for many kids this year than ever before. After months of remote learning it may be hard for your child to return to school. I have been hearing from lots of kids in my office that they are nervous to return to school.

For some kids it was hard to be stuck learning at home – but many liked it. It was easier for some children to focus without the distractions of a busy classroom. Especially for kids who tend to be anxious – a return to the social scene at school can feel scary. Many people – including children – have gained weight during COVID. While getting back to the more physical routine that school offers with PE and recess, is good for them – they may also be embarrassed by the weight gain.

My own kids and the kids I seen in the office have a certain edginess in the last weeks of summer induced by a mix of excitement and nerves.

How can we help these back-to-school jitters?

  1. Talk. Kids of all ages do well when they can talk through what’s coming up. Talk with a child headed to the first day of kindergarten to help them understand what it will be like. Ask your older kids how they feel about going back to school. Acknowledge that they may be feeling nervous to start junior high or high school especially now during the continued stress created by COVID. Give them a chance to ask questions. You can tell them what you remember about your school days—but it’s best to keep it positive!
  2. Practice. No matter which school year they’re starting, kids can benefit from practice! If they’re starting middle school, head over to school with their schedule and practice walking from class to class. If they’re given a locker, practice opening a combination lock at home—do this together until it’s easy for them. For an elementary school child, simply walking through the school to see where they’ll eat lunch and have recess can help calm their jitters and make it all seem more fun. For all kids, practice walking, biking, or driving their route to school.
  3. Visualize. A very nervous child may benefit from visualizing the school days coming up. Have them sit with their eyes closed, take a few slow, deep breaths, and then picture themselves enjoying school. Maybe they can see themselves saying hi to a new friend or enjoying recess with old ones. Kids of all ages may benefit from the mindfulness and sleep exercises offered in the Calm app.
  4. Prepare. It can be hard to know all the back to school supplies until you get lists from their teachers. However, pulling out your leftover supplies, organizing them, and going out to pick up a few new things can make it more fun! All children will have to wear masks in school this year so practicing this with younger kids can help. Remind them that wearing a mask can make them a superhero!
  5. Remind. Talking about positive experiences can help reassure your child. Ask what went well at school before? Are there friends they haven’t seen for a long time who will be fun to connect with on the first day?
  6. Act early. Was last year rough? Then talk with your child about how you’ll help make this year better. Start early by scheduling meetings with teachers and counselors to set a positive tone for a new year. Volunteer to help out in your child’s school or classroom. Remind your child that no matter what you’re there for them at the end of every day.
  7. Connect. Before that first day comes around, arrange to have your child spend time with other kids in their class. Arrange an afternoon at the park with a group in the same kindergarten class. Take a group of your upcoming seventh grader’s friends on an end of summer socially distanced adventure! Ask if they want to include some new friends?

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