Addressing the Back-to-School Butterflies

back-to-school butterfliesAddressing your child’s back-to-school butterflies is a part of summer vacation that often creeps up on parents. In a blink of an eye, the long dog days have quickly turned into the last few days of freedom for most children. Whether your child is returning to the same school they have attended for years or starting a new journey into elementary, middle, or high school, a certain level of “butterflies in the stomach” feeling is to be expected. Who will be in my class? Will my teachers be nice? Will I make new friends?

Parents may be wondering how to best support their child so that these anxious feelings do not become worse or turn into school-related anxiety. Here are some tips on helping your child handle those feelings:

  • Normalize your child’s feelings. Helping your child understand that starting something new can cause anyone to experience feelings such as being nervous, excited, and uncertain.
  • Share your own personal experience.  Sometimes sharing an example of how you felt anxious about starting something new, a new job, for example, is a great way to begin a conversation about all the positive things that happened with that experience.
  • Remind your child that they’ve done this before.  Reminiscing about a time when your child started something new, like a new daycare or dance class, can help you remind them that positive experiences come from trying new things.
  • Establish a Schedule. Aid your child in having a great start to the school year by sticking to age-appropriate bedtimes, assuring they have a nutritious breakfast prior to the start of their school day, and minimizing screentime during the evening.
  • Gather your resources. Utilizing picture books such as “A New School Year” by Sally Derby, “Llama Llama Misses Mama,” by Anna Dewdney, and “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold are great resources for aiding your child in feeling more at ease.

By following this simple list, you will address your child’s back-to-school butterflies like a professional. We hope you have a wonderful year!

Blog by Pam Wilsen and Tia Nagel, school-based mental health therapists