It is normal and understandable for kids to feel anxious about going back to school after a long summer break or starting school for the first time.
Parents can help their children transition back to school by being aware of the symptoms of stress and anxiety and using some creative strategies.
Reasons Kids Might Be Stressed or Anxious
Some kids worry because they are afraid of what they do not know. This is especially the case if the kids will be going to a new school or district. They may also worry about making friends or if they have the skills needed to do well in school.
Students may feel extra intimidated or even scared to return to traditional in-person classrooms after spending months out of them due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially if they had classes online throughout the entirety of 2020.
Students may feel anxious about returning to school after a long break for a variety of reasons. They may be worried about wearing masks and being unvaccinated, or about whether their friendships will change. They may also feel unsure about what school will be like now and whether they will be able to navigate it.
Concerns About Friends, Bullies, and More
Some children feel anxious or nervous about going back to school because they have been bullied in the past. For many of them, the time away from school was a relief from the hurtful behavior and comments. Now that a new school year is starting, they may be anxious that they will have to go through the same thing again.
If a child is coming from a disadvantaged background, they may worry about not having the right clothes or supplies. Other children may be anxious about how their peers will view them if they have experienced changes in their appearance, such as weight changes, needing glasses, or acne. Puberty can also be a source of stress for kids.
Other common stressors include having a disagreement with a close friend, not making a sports team, having to adjust to a new learning environment, being assigned a difficult teacher, and not getting into higher-level courses.
There are many reasons why children may feel anxious and stressed as the first day of school approaches. Each child’s reasons are unique to them.
How to Identify Anxiety
If your kids are struggling with stress and anxiety, it is important to not ignore it.
Signs of Anxiety
-cling to a parent or caregiver -refuse to go to school or participate in class -have difficulty sleeping -experience a change in appetite When kids are anxious, they may not be able to put their feelings into words. Instead, you can look for clues in their behavior. Kids who are experiencing anxiety may cling to a parent or caregiver, refuse to go to school or participate in class, have difficulty sleeping, or experience a change in appetite.
- Appear more clingy than normal
- Be restless and fidgety
- Complain of stomachaches
- Display changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Express negative thoughts or worries
- Get upset or angry more quickly
- Have bouts of unexplained crying
- Struggle to concentrate
If your child’s anxiety lasts for more than two weeks and prevents them from doing their usual activities, this could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.9 Talk to your child’s doctor about your concerns.
If anxiety is left untreated, it can negatively affect a child’s academic performance, social life, and mental health. In extreme cases, it can even lead to drug abuse.
Tips for Dealing With Stress and Anxiety
You can often help your child feel better by simply listening to them and not judging them. Encourage them to talk to you about what is stressing them out and let them know that their feelings are valid. Sometimes, just expressing their feelings is enough.
You can help ease your child’s anxiety about going back to school by getting your home ready for the transition. Planning school lunches ahead of time or establishing a comfortable homework area can help make kids feel more in control and relieve some of their anxious feelings.
One way to ease your child’s back-to-school anxiety is to help them understand what to expect from their new school environment. If your child is unsure about what their new school will be like, take some time to talk to them about it. Share your own experiences with them, and explain how they can expect to feel.
COVID-19 and Kids’ Stress Levels
COVID-19 is causing increased anxiety and stress in kids. Many kids and teens are experiencing feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty as they struggle to come to terms with the continued experience of living through the pandemic.
Even as many parts of life are opening up and returning to “normal,” kids may still be harboring fears. It’s not uncommon for people—including young people—to struggle with psychosocial issues following outbreaks of infectious diseases. These issues can include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social isolation.
An increased number of people reported experiencing mental health issues like anxiety and depression following an Ebola outbreak, while another study found that children receiving mental health care are particularly psychologically vulnerable to epidemics like COVID-19.
The things that have contributed to children’s developing identities have been removed due to the pandemic, and it is stressful for them to try to readjust to life in the classroom.
Students during the COVID-19 pandemic have faced many challenges. They have been limited in terms of who they can see and spend time with and have had to deal with grief over many of their favorite activities being canceled. Likewise, many families have experienced increased economic hardship or uncertainty due to the pandemic. And, some students have had relatives get sick or even die from COVID-19. Both of these scenarios can leave kids feeling stressed and anxious.
If these situations don’t apply to your family, your kids may still know someone who has experienced them. These realities (or the worry that they may happen) can create a lot of stress for kids, which may manifest as anxiety about going to school.
Many children are aware of the dangers of coronavirus from social media and other sources. This information, some of which may be wrong, can cause them to worry about contracting the virus and passing it on to friends and family.
As we come out of the worst of COVID-19 in the United States, kids may wonder about the new variants of the disease and how it will affect them, their families, and friends.
Do you worry about getting the coronavirus? If you’re like most people, you probably do. And if you have kids, you might be concerned about them, too. Kids under 12 are not eligible for the vaccine, which means they may be at greater risk for getting the virus.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling unmotivated at times. Everyone experiences it, and it’s something you’ll have to deal with throughout your life.
You can change your feeling of motivation! If you learn how to keep yourself motivated now, it will be easier to change your state of mind as you practice using those tools.
Here are five strategies you can try right now to help you re-motivate yourself in 2021:
Determine the Cause
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one. If you’re feeling unmotivated, it might be because you think you just don’t care about school anymore. But that might not be the real reason. Once you figure out what the real issue is, you can start to fix it.
The article provides questions that will help the reader think more deeply about why they might be experiencing a lack of motivation.
Most likely, there are things that are holding you back from being productive in school. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and don’t want to do any task unless you know it’ll be perfect, which prevents you from starting. Maybe your parents have set unrealistic expectations for you, or you’ve set them for yourself.
Might you have a latent terror of accomplishment because you’re not certain if you will be able to emulate it always?
Think about why you are feeling this way and either write it down in a journal or say it out loud. This will help you to understand the root of the problem and potentially give you the motivation to overcome it.
Tackle the Most Difficult Tasks First
If you’re not feeling motivated, it might be because you know you haven’t accomplished a goal that’s been on your mind for a while. You might keep putting it off by finishing other tasks first.
Tasks that are simpler might feel like they would be easier to deal with when you don’t have much motivation, but research shows that you would actually feel more accomplished and like you’re making more progress if you start with the most difficult tasks.
Doing small, easy tasks right away gives you a false sense of progress and makes you keep pushing off the harder tasks on your to-do list, which will only increase your feeling of dread.
Do something that you don’t want to do first thing in the morning. It probably won’t be as bad as you think. Once you’re finished with the difficult task, everything else will feel simpler.
Don’t procrastinate on that big project you’ve been dreading for months. You can break it up into small tasks and work on them right away when you have independent work time. That way you’ll finish the project gradually and it won’t use up too much of your energy.
Change Your Physical State
If you want to increase your motivation, sometimes all you need to do is change your physical state. You can do this by exercising, taking a dance party break, changing locations in your home, taking a walk, or even just standing up and shaking it out for a few seconds.
In other words, by moving your body, you can provide a much-needed break for your mind, and improve your emotional state.
Did you know that you can get some of the benefits of exercise without adopting an intense workout routine?
You should try to find a way of exercising that you enjoy, so that you are more likely to stick to it. You could either set aside a specific time each day to exercise, or do shorter burst of exercise throughout the day. This will help to break up your normal routine.
Get rid of the feeling that you have to do a certain type of physical activity, and move around to help yourself find a new perspective on what you have to do.
Organize Your Workspace
Your lack of motivation may be due to a cluttered workspace, which includes not just your desk and computer, but also your mind.
15 minutes to organize your workspace: -Restack loose papers -Find folders to organize assignments -Fluff your chair pillow -Put up some motivational quotes -Bring in some elements of your favorite color
Making a calendar is a great way to keep track of school deadlines and other activities. It can help you understand when you need to prioritize certain assignments.
To help you focus on your schoolwork, avoid distractions like social media. You can find apps that will prevent you from accessing social media accounts when you need to focus. Although it may seem like you can multitask, it is actually better to avoid social media while working on schoolwork.
Take Care of Human Necessities
Your lack of motivation could be due to not taking care of your basic needs like sleep, rest, food, water, and social interaction.
No matter what your goals are, you need to take care of yourself before you can expect to be motivated.
Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and think about which areas you might be lacking in.
Be sure to take some time to relax and rest. This may mean you have to give up your favorite nighttime video game for a while, until your life gets less busy. Be sure to get enough sleep, and take naps if needed!
To keep your body energized and your mind sharp, drink plenty of water and eat healthy foods. Find a way to track how much water you’ve been drinking throughout the day. Maybe mark on a post-it how many times you’ve refilled your water bottle. Set a goal that will help drinking water feel like a game.
It’s important to keep up with your schoolwork, but don’t forget to balance that with socializing too. Even if you can’t see your friends in person all the time, you can stay in touch with them over social media or the phone. And it’s also important to spend time with your family or get out into the world for a bit every day.
You’ll need to find a balance between school and the rest of your life to get your motivation back.