A new school year can bring starting school and back to school anxiety. Find ideas and advice here about easing starting school and back to school anxiety you and your children might be feeling.

The anticipation of ‘back-to-school’ (or starting a new school) brings excitement and anxiety to both parents and children – doesn’t it all roll around too quickly?! It seems that Christmas and New Year’s Day have only just passed and here we are confronted with the thought of first-day jitters, new routines, structured schedules and potential separation anxiety.

There are a few ways you can attempt to make the whole first day and week, a smoother and hopefully less stressful experience.

Children who have been previously happy to wave goodbye at the ‘drop-off-zone’ may become anxious about the first day back at school in a New Year. Six weeks is a long time in their little lives and is a long time to have been away from school.  Add to that the fact that in most cases they will be entering a new classroom with new classmates and a new teacher who they may have no knowledge of, and anxieties may shoot through the roof!

school anxiety

New Teacher – New Classroom – New Classmates

Most primary schools will have made you and your child aware of what class he/she will be in this year and who their teacher will be before they broke up last year. This will have given them a chance to sound out who may be in their class this year and what their teacher is like. Keep in mind that for many children, who is in their class is far more important than any other detail.

New Teacher

In the days leading up to school re-opening, school offices are generally open. If your child is very anxious about who their teacher is going to be, take a trip to the school in the week prior to the first day and either:

a. Visit the office and look for a photo of the teacher. Most schools have profiles and photos of the staff for young ones and parents to look at; or

b. Visit the new teacher in his/her classroom. Teachers are often at school in the week prior to opening to get their classrooms and lessons organised. Be aware that they are very busy at this time of the year so your visit should be brief and limited to ‘dropping in’ to introduce yourself and your child.

New Classroom

At any time over the summer break and leading up to the school year starting, take a visit to the school grounds and have a wander around. Ask your child to show you their new classroom and take a look through the window. Talk about how exciting it is to have a new class. If he or she is moving to a new syndicate or area of the school, hunt out the toilets in that area and also get them to show you which way they will walk into and out of the school at drop off and pick up time.

New Classmates

If you know which children will be in the class then it is a good idea for you to make contact with some of these children in the next couple of weeks. Maybe have one or two of them over to play if possible and foster a relationship between the kids.

On the first day

If your child is showing signs of being nervous or if you yourself are anxious about the changes, it pays to take them to school for the first few days. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive, have a look around and meet some of the other children and parents.

Meet the teacher

Make a point of introducing yourself to the new teacher with your child. Have a quick chat about the classroom; for example, some of the exciting things that may have been put on the wall and what interesting new things they might possibly do in this year at school. Again be mindful that there could potentially be 20 – 30 other parents wanting to do the same thing and so for the teacher this can be a busy time. They may not remember your name!

Spend some time in the classroom before you leave

Have a good look around. Are there any charts on the wall with birthdates, names? Can your child find theirs? What looks exciting? Try to stay until he or she starts to  look comfortable.  It may be that a familiar or friendly face from last year walks in during this time.  Try to get excited about this with your child.


Goodbyes can be very difficult but every child is different; yours may surprise you!

A good-bye ritual can work wonders and be something that just you and your child share.  In the days before school starts work together on a special hand signal or shake that you only share when you say goodbye at school. Tell them you love them and to have a great day. Positive and cheerful is the best way to go.

If you find these things aren’t working or improving over the first week have a word in the teacher’s ear and ask for some assistance. Often a little distraction is all it takes. Remember, once you’ve said goodbye and been through the ritual stick to your guns and leave (in some cases you may have to physically pass your child to the teacher).

Plan after-school treats

Kids love having something exciting to look forward to at the end of a school day. It doesn’t have to be a ‘big-ticket’ treat, just the chance to choose an ice block on the way home can be enough.

Maybe your child could make a list of reasonable after-school treats and be allowed to pick one per week for the first term (or one per day for the first week). Some reasonable treats might be:

  • Choosing their own ice block
  • Baking chocolate biscuits when they get home
  • Being allowed to watch TV for half an hour before homework
  • Having a friend over
  • Going for a swim at the local pool
  • Choosing what the family has for dinner
  • A trip to the $2 Shop

See what else you can come up with.

After-school treats can work wonders as a motivational tool if your child is having difficulty saying goodbye in the mornings. Don’t allow it to become an expected occurrence though. As with anything special if it occurs too often it no longer becomes a treat.

For more expert advice on starting back at school, check out our School & School Holidays section.

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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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