Back-to-School Anxiety

Anxiety disorders affect 1 in 8 children. Feelings of anxiousness and some anxiety is a normal part of childhood and can be temporary and harmless.

However, sometimes anxiety is long-lasting. School refusal that is anxiety-based most commonly occurs between ages five to six and ten to eleven, during transition periods such as elementary to middle school or junior high school to senior. Either as a parent, teacher, school counselor, or school administrator, it is important to recognize the signs and address student anxiety before it envelops a child’s development.

Symptoms of Anxiety in School-Aged Children May Include:

Clingy Behavior


Stomach Pains/Headaches

Increased Crying

Changes in Eating Habits

Social Isolation

Nail Biting, Hair Twirling, Skin Picking

Increased Irritability

Causes of Anxiety Differences in Grade Level May Include:


  • Change of Environment
  • Separation Anxiety
  • How to Make Friends
  • Beginning to Balance School Work with Social Life
  • Performance Anxiety


  • Physical Appearances
  • “Fitting In”
  • Change of Environment
  • Social Isolation
  • Increased Pressure and Need for Self-Management

High School

  • Making Career and College Decisions
  • Increased Coursework Load
  • Uncertainty About the Future
  • Social Pressures
  • At-Home Responsibilities Balancing with Academic Pursuits

5 Ways to Help Back-to-School Anxiety


  1. Maintain Regular Routines and Look After Basic Needs
  2. Encourage Your Child to Share Their Worries
  3. Avoid Providing Reassurance, Problem-Solve and Plan Instead
  4. Focus on the Positive Aspects of a New School Year
  5. Role Play with Your Child


  1. Practice Deep Breaths
  2. Talk about it.
  3. Start a gratitude journal.
  4. Share your story.
  5. Create a safe space.
More on 10 Ways to Help Students Who Struggle With Anxiety from We Are Teachers

School Counselors

  1. Validate Student’s Emotions
  2. Organize a School Tour
  3. Create a Welcome Letter with School Resources
  4. Collaborate with School Staff to Promote Mindfulness Training
  5. Wellness Table in Common Area
Explore how school counselors support student development from our School Counselor ToolKit.


  1. Organize a Welcome Assembly with Icebreaker Activities
  2. Conduct a School Wide Scavenger Hunt
  3. Coordinate a Workshop for Concerned Parents
  4. Encourage Student Participation in Extracurricular Activities
  5. Build a Culture of Resilience Throughout School

Back-to-School Anxiety Resources

Information on is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your physician or other qualified professionals with any questions you may have regarding a potential anxiety disorder.

Last updated: April 2020