This piece was written by Teresa Lyons, a member of the Contributor’s Circle at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. The views expressed in this post do not represent those of the Hogg Foundation.

Teacher Pointing at a Globe using a PointerThis fall in Texas and across the nation, school personnel, parents and students will begin preparations to return to school. Simply put, parents may face challenges as they prepare to send their children back to school in 2023.

The transition from a long break to a structured academic environment can evoke various emotions, including fear, stress, and anxiety. Be proactive in discussing with children the very real feelings that can be experienced when preparing to go back, and the emotions that arrive once back on campus.

This comprehensive guide will address common fears and provide practical strategies to ensure a smooth and positive back-to-school experience for everyone involved.

Understanding the Source of Fear, Stress, and Anxiety

It is essential to recognize that fear, stress, and anxiety are natural responses when facing new or uncertain situations. The thought of adjusting to a new academic year, navigating social dynamics, or coping with academic demands can trigger these emotions. As parents and staff, your primary concern is the well-being and success of your children or students.

Fostering Open Communication 

Effective communication is key to easing fears and minimizing stress during the back-to-school period. Establishing an open line of communication with your child’s teachers, school administrators, and other parents can provide reassurance and a support network. Encourage dialogue to address any concerns or questions you may have. Ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations and goals for the upcoming year.

Creating a Structured Routine

One way to combat anxiety and stress is by establishing a structured routine. Consistency and predictability can provide a sense of security for both children and adults. Set regular bedtimes, plan healthy meals, and allocate dedicated time for homework, extracurricular activities, and relaxation. By creating a well-balanced schedule, you can help your child develop good habits and reduce the overwhelming emotions associated with transitioning back to school.

Practicing Self-Care

Remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as supporting your child or students. Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, sufficient sleep, and leisure time. Engage in hobbies that bring you joy and help you unwind. By nurturing your well-being, you will be better equipped to manage any challenges that arise during the back-to-school period.

Emotional Intelligence

Simply put, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as the ability to recognize and influence the emotions of those around you. This plays a vital role in navigating social interactions and coping with stress. Teach your child or students the importance of identifying and expressing their emotions in healthy ways. It is important to teach that all stress is not bad stress and how to effectively communicate when those pressing feelings surface. Encourage and provide a safe nonjudgmental space for children to communicate their feelings openly and provide guidance on managing stress and anxiety through techniques like deep breathing and positive self-talk.

Seeking Professional Support

If you or your child are experiencing persistent or overwhelming fear, stress, or anxiety, it may be beneficial to seek professional support. We must work collectively towards discontinuing negative thoughts about getting help for ourselves, especially in the area of mental health.

Licensed therapists, counselors, or school psychologists can provide valuable guidance and strategies tailored to your specific needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to these professionals if you believe additional assistance is necessary.

Collaborating with the School Community

Remember that you are not alone in this journey. The school community is there to support you and your child every step of the way. The family and school partnership is invaluable. Participate in parent-teacher meetings, school events, and volunteer opportunities to establish connections and foster a sense of belonging. By actively engaging with the school community, you can contribute to a positive and inclusive educational environment.

Manage Expectations and Set Realistic Goals

Discuss academic expectations with your child and help them set realistic goals. Encourage them to focus on personal growth rather than solely on grades. Remind them that everyone learns at their own pace and that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. Encourage a growth mindset, emphasizing the importance of effort and resilience. Reinforce that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. By managing expectations and encouraging a positive mindset, parents and even school personnel can help themselves and their students approach school with less pressure, fear and anxiety.

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