Story by: Norton Children’s Reviewed by Katy Hopkins, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist with Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine on August 15, 2023
Summer’s over for the kids, and they’re headed back to school.
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“It’s supposed to be an exciting time, so why, as a parent, am I the one feeling so anxious about it?”
If you have thoughts like that, just know — it’s totally normal, and you aren’t alone.A child starting school can be a stressful time for parents, not only because of their own stress but also because of their child’s stress. Even though these anxious or nervous feelings certainly are not fun to experience, there are several ways to ease the discomfort you may be feeling about your child going to school. This article will outline some of the triggers for parental anxiety and helpful tips to manage your feelings about it.
Let’s face it: Sometimes letting go is hard! Parental anxiety refers to the stress, worries or apprehensions about your child beginning a new chapter of life such as going to school. Having conflicting feelings about the start of the school year is OK. It can be exciting, and it can be worrisome. Making space for your feelings and your child’s feelings is key.
Fear of the unknown and lack of controlWhen a child is at home, there may be more of a feeling of predictability and control over their environment: what they are doing, who they are spending time with and what they are exposed to. When they are at school, it’s a different story. Below are a few triggers for school-related anxiety for parents and children.
Safety and well-beingAttending school is a part of a child’s normal educational and social journey, but it is normal to consider the following when you imagine your child going to school:
Separation anxietyLetting go is a difficult but necessary process for every parent as their child grows up. It’s OK to feel emotional about a child gaining new independence and spending less time at home.This can be difficult for both parents and children. It might be hard to witness your child experiencing separation anxiety, but you can comfort them and support them by letting them know how much you care about them. Help them understand when they can expect to see you again and offer ideas about positive things they can to look forward to when at school. Make their teacher aware that they are experiencing some anxiety. Separation anxiety also can create parental anxiety as you find yourself worrying about their worry while away from you. Managing your own anxiety and feeling confident that they’re in good hands while away from you will, in turn, help your child feel more confident to be away from you during the school day.
Coping strategies and a support network are key pillars when it comes to managing parental anxiety.
Unfortunately, sometimes when a parent is anxious this can cause the child also to become anxious. Your child’s pediatrician can be a great resource for helping you to manage your child through this transition. If your child needs a school physical or annual check up, now is an opportunity to schedule an appointment and address any concerns that may be affecting your child.
Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, has more than 25 pediatrician office locations. Find the location nearest you for support during back-to-school season and all year long.