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Parents Get Anxious About School Too

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — July 31, 2019 — 4 min read
The beginning of the school year can elicit mixed emotions for parents – elation and not having to entertain bored kids, sadness at the thought of how fast they’re growing up, and often anxiety at the thought of how much busier schedules will be and how much less time there will be to just play and have fun together as a family.

Here are some general tips to prepare for the new school year that may help ease parents’ anxiety about the upcoming changes:
  • Changing routines: Several weeks before school begins, start talking about the new routine in regard to bed time, waking up, and after school activities.
  • Supplies: Make sure your child has a list of back to school supplies in advance, know about uniform/clothing requirements; attend any back to school/information nights; drive the route to school at the time of school to plan for traffic.
  • What’s for lunch: Your child might worry about what to do at lunch time and that can mean worry for you, too. Talk about it. Will your child eat lunch provided by the school cafeteria or pack a lunch from home? Kids sometimes get excited to help pick out the items for their lunch the night before school. This is a good opportunity for parents to review healthy food choices while getting everyone prepared for the next day.
  • Playdates: If parents have friends that have kids in similar grades or older, consider arranging playdates. The PTA also can be helpful at connecting families. Knowing people at school can ease anxiety for you and your child.
  • Be flexible: Be willing to make adjustments to your new morning and afternoon routines. After a few weeks have passed, take note of what is going well and what isn’t. For example, maybe the plan to have your child complete his assignments before having playtime has caused one too many meltdowns. Time to shift.
  • Get involved: Get to know your child’s school community. Attend principal coffee hour, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, volunteer in the classroom, or have lunch with your child. Spending time at school during school hours will allow you to develop your own impressions, relationships and feel more connected to your child’s new world.
 
Kindergarten Jitters – What Parents Can Do
Starting school, in particular kindergarten, is one of the biggest transitions in the life of a family. It is sure to be filled with excitement, worry, and even a few tears.

Children generally start kindergarten at age five or six when their developing brains are ready to learn. This is a phase of life that is often characterized by a love of learning. They will be excited to tell you about their school day and to show-off all their new skills.

They will also be tired and cranky at the end of their school day. School demands a great deal from children; they have to sit still for long periods of time, get along with new people, learn new rules and information. This is exhausting. 
 
Here are tips for parents facing the first day of kindergarten:
  • Practice: If thinking about your child starting school causes the tears to start flowing, practice thinking about it until you can do it with a smile. Your child will be watching you as a way to figure out how she should feel about starting school. If you look and feel confident, she’ll be confident, too.
  • Plan: Make a post good-bye plan for the first day. Arrange to meet a friend for coffee or another activity that you enjoy.
  • Meet the teachers: Many schools schedule kindergarten playdates and meet the teacher events to help get kids excited about the teacher, the cafeteria, and the bus ride.
  • Pack a Kit: Make a special school kit filled with a few essentials (a prepackaged snack or two, extra pencils, a sweater) that will stay in your child’s backpack until needed. Having these extra items from home may prevent a kindergarten “crisis” and also serves as a transitional object – a nice reminder of home.  
  • Nerves are normal: Keeping Mom and Dad calm can start with recognizing that all kids get nervous about being at school. There are children’s books like the Little Critters or Berenstain Bears that address the first day or having homework that can help ease your child’s mind and your own.
 
Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr. Qionna Tinney and psychologists Patricia Babin, PhD and PharmD, and Dawn O’Malley, PsyD, contributed to this article.
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