AnxietyBC Provides a 12-Step Back to School Checklist for Parents

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

AnxietyBC Provides a 12-Step Back to School Checklist for Parents

Simple Tips to Help Minimize Student Anxiety on the First Day


August 22, 2017 - Vancouver, BC - The Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia (AnxietyBC™) is helping to reduce the anxiety associated with returning to school by providing parents with a 12-step checklist that they can use to help transition their children back into their school routines. Taking some simple but important steps - one week, a couple of days before, and on the first day of school -  can help minimize the anxiety associated with back to school.


“Most parents can anticipate that their children will be more anxious and excited as September approaches,” said Judith Law, Executive Director, AnxietyBC. “This is normal; however, this transition can be especially difficult for those who struggle with anxiety, and can be a bit stressful for the entire family. We’re pleased to provide tools that parents can use to help their children cope with returning to school.”


Parents can start following some simple steps a week before school to get the family back on a regular routine. They can also practice coping skills and role-play with their child, and do a “first-day dry-run” – all crucial steps that can help the child cope with the anxiety associated with the new school year.


“Back to school can be a stressful time for parents too,” said Melanie Badali, Registered Psychologist, and Anxiety BC Board Director. She advises parents to “Take your own temperature and manage stress. Model brave, optimistic words and actions for your child. Although it is difficult – try not to take on more commitments than the family can handle comfortably. Saying no now can mean saying yes to less stress later.”


In addition to the 12-step checklist, AnxietyBC recently launched My Anxiety Plan (MAP) for Children – a free online anxiety management toolkit and a step-by-step guide for parents of children with anxiety.  



12-Step Checklist for Back to School

Please note that these are suggested steps, and you may not need to take all of the steps listed below.

One week before school:


1. Start your School Sleep Routine

 Routines can be relaxed in the summer, so a week prior to school is a good time to adjust the family schedule to get everyone back into morning and bedtime habits.

        Establish bed times for the school year and start following them
        Ensure the entire family is up when they would be for school
        For older children, give them their own alarm clock and let them practice using it
        Ensure that the entire family get involved so that your child doesn’t feel alone with these changes


 2. Promote Healthy Eating Habits

 Nutrition is extremely important; it’s hard to cope well when you are tired or hungry, so provide your child nutritious and frequent snacks and build in regular routines. 

        Start having your meals around regular mealtimes
        Ask your child to help you create a school lunch menu for the first week of school
        Allow your child to pick out his or her favourite snacks
        Allow your child to help you plan your dinner meals -this way s(he) will have a yummy dinner to look forward to


3. Shop for Supplies

Make picking out school supplies a fun task!

        Create a list of school supplies with your child
        Plan a fun shopping trip to pick out supplies


4. Encourage Your Child to Share His or Her Fears

Talk to your child about his or her worries and practice coping skills

        Touch base with your child at a regular time each day to discuss your child’s worries and encourage him or her to problem solve and plan
        Role-play with your child
        Focus on the positive aspects – ask your child to list the three things that s(he)is most excited about on the first day
        Practice calm breathing with your child – s(he) can learn to use this when her anxiety rises
        Develop cognitive coping cards that your child can use to help cope with anxiety


 A couple of days before school: 


5. Do a dry-run

        Go to school several times – walking, driving, or taking the bus
        For young children, describe and draw out the route and include how long it will take 
        For younger children, go to the schoolyard and play a few times before the first day of school

6. Tour the School

        For new students, take a tour of the school
        Show your child the classrooms, the cafeteria, and the bathrooms
        Meet your child’s teacher with your child present, if possible


7. Plan the Outfits

        Ask your child to help choose the outfits for the first week of school
        Let your child pick out his or her favorite outfit for the first day


8. Pack the Backpack

        Together with your child, pack the backpack the night before, including treats


9. Choose a Special Object

        For younger children who are nervous about separating, suggest taking a special object to school that reminds him or her of home
        Put a reassuring note in a child’s lunch can also help ease separation anxiety


The first day of school: 


10. Walk with a Friend

        Try and arrange that your child walks with a friend to school for the first couple of days
        Arrange play days with school mates leading up to the first day


11. Talk to the Teacher

        Let the teacher know that your child is having some separation anxiety


12. Praise and Reward

      Most importantly, praise and reward your child for brave behavior!

 The 12-Step Back to School Checklist is also available under in the Downloadable Resources section of our website. 

If you would like additional resources to help you ease your child back to school, please visit the following links for more information.