Children and back-to-school stress

Ease your child's mind about the returning to class.

Credit: allspice1

Back-to-school anxiety a growing problem for young children


Maia used to get stomachaches, like clockwork, at about 3 p.m. every Sunday afternoon. They typically started around Labour Day and finally eased off sometime in May. We tried a number of different ways to get rid of those tummy-aches: we watched her diet, we tried distraction and we took up yoga. The cause? Anxiety about school.


Finally we went with home schooling, but that’s not an option for every family (or a even desirable choice for every kid).


According to a new national Angus Reid survey, Maia is not alone when it comes to back-to-school stress. Forty-two percent of Canadian parents report that their kids show an increase in anxiety levels as school approaches.


BC, it turns out, is a hotbed of stressed-out kids, with 47 percent of them worrying about things like new schedules (72 percent), being overwhelmed by homework (59 percent) and new teachers (35 percent).


Kids, stress and school

Stress isn’t good for us, but it is normal, and most of us have had to help our kids deal with it at one time or another. Dr. Stephen Whiteside, child psychologist at the Mayo Clinic, offered these tips for back to school stress:


  • Talk about what it is about school that makes them feel nervous. Sorting out the specifics and putting the nervousness into words can be helpful for a child who’s feeling anxious.
  • Show love, support and understanding. Parents can share similar experiences and discuss how they handled the situation. This teaches your children it’s okay to be nervous, and that solutions do exist.
  • Teach them to take deep breaths. When they begin to feel anxious, this will help calm their nerves and feel more in control of of the situation.


The Vancouver School Board also offers stress-reducing tips on their website which include:


  • Make sure your child gets back into the bedtime routine. Stress is easier to manage when you are well rested.
  • Pack nutritious and palatable lunches. This will make sure your child ends up eating (rather than trading) what you packed for them at lunch.
  • Brainstorm together a couple of ideas/summer stories that your child can share with the rest of the class. Help them get ready to share a “what I did on vacation” story.
  • Set goals and targets for learning so your child can hit the ground running.


If your kids stay anxious consider talking to their teacher or you family doctor. Stress sucks and your child shouldn’t have to suffer.