As summer winds down and the air starts to get chilly again, we know back to school is fast approaching. The fall can be an exciting time! Kids can get ready to learn new things, make new friends, and get back into a structured routine. While this can be a positive and welcome experience for some kids, for others it can be a big challenge, provoking stress and anxiety. So, in order to help you make the transition back to school as simple and seamless for your family as possible, here are our back to school tips for parents looking to support children emotionally as they head back to the classroom and playground this fall. 

Assess Their Anxiety

As the start of school approaches, it is normal to see a change in behavior, whether it be a peak in energy levels due to excitement or acting out due to fear or anxiety about heading back to the classroom. But, even seemingly small changes can be indicative of emotional stress in need of a guardian’s support. Keep in mind that anxiety can sometimes be difficult to spot, with only subtle visible changes. So, be sure to keep a close eye on your child during times of transition and note any behavior or mood changes such as becoming quieter, or alternatively, more disobedient. If children start acting out and having tantrums leading up to back to school, consider that they might be stressed or anxious. As you assess the situation, discuss your child’s behaviors and emotions with them while showing your interest and compassion. 

Validate Their Concerns

As you talk to your child about how they are feeling, gently focus the conversation to see if they are willing to open up about their emotions and the challenges they perceive they will face. Keep in mind that many kids might be going through these negative emotions and still feel reluctant to share. Let them know that feeling apprehensive about going back to school is normal and that you are there to offer support and help them make the return to the classroom a pleasant experience. Validating their experiences helps kids realize that this is a very normal part of life and that even though they feel uncomfortable now, these negative feelings can improve with the right tools and support. Showing empathy and compassion for your child’s situation can help you bond with your child and facilitate their willingness to bond with others. 

Develop Strategies

Once you have identified that something is bothering your child and have discussed the depth and cause of their emotions, you can start to develop strategies to tackle these negative feelings as a team. For example, if your child starts to feel overwhelmed, practicing breathing techniques together can be a great way to offer them tools to soothe themselves at home or even at school. If your child is feeling a lack of confidence about their ability to handle the new stresses of returning to school, you can teach them a mantra to repeat to themselves when they are feeling stressed or anxious to remind them that they can do it. Perhaps most importantly, developing a routine can be especially important to provide kids with stability and a feeling of control in their lives as things change. 

Prepare Them in Advance

Routines and schedules can be very helpful to bring kids back to the mindset they were in when they enjoyed school last year. Refamiliarizing kids with their typical day during the school year is an excellent way to prepare ahead and remind them what they love about going to school. So, start by slowly immersing your child back into their routines and favorite activities before school starts. You can take them to visit their school, meet their teachers ahead of time, and even start taking a peek at what they will be learning this year. To get them excited, you can begin organizing their back to school supplies, packing their backpack, and playing their favorite playground games. Planning ahead can help give kids confidence that they will have an enjoyable school year and that they are prepared to handle any challenges that might come their way. 

Start Setting Goals

Setting goals can help kids feel prepared and even motivated to conquer their fears and stresses about going back to school in small ways. Start by checking in with your child about what they want to achieve this year. Maybe there is something they are already excited about! If they can’t think of anything, give them some ideas about what they might miss about the school year that they can look forward to. Maybe they were sad when the school year ended last year and had to say goodbye to their friends? Consider setting a goal with them to have at least one playdate a week or to make three new friends this year. Or, if they are concerned about separation from you, consider setting a goal to have an extra long hug and a note in their lunchbox every day rather than a tantrum on the way to school. Help them visualize the excitement of returning to school and all of the fun activities they can do and friendships they can enjoy again in the new school year. 

At Coastal Kids, we believe that it is important for kids to understand that the adults in their life, such as parents, teachers, grandparents, and even siblings are there to support them and their unique needs. If your little ones feel seen, heard, understood, and supported by the adults in their life, especially through their fears and challenges, they will likely be more calm and positive about heading back to school in the fall. If you have any concerns about your child’s wellness or are interested in more back to school mental health tips, do not hesitate to talk to your pediatrician to address concerns and develop a plan to support your child’s physical and mental health. To make an appointment, visit us at