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Are Back to School Blues Really a Thing?

By Carissa Andrews  •   August 29, 2016

by Wavebreakmedia, despositphotos.com
by Wavebreakmedia, despositphotos.com

Summer is wrapping up and fall is just around the corner. For many, this can be a fun, welcome change of pace. For others, it can be a stressful, anxiety-filled season. Did you know most kids suffer some form of anxiety or depression when heading back to school?

The first two weeks to a month are generally considered the toughest; as kids and parents adjust to their new routine and demands. Noticing the signs and understanding where your kids are coming from can help to alleviate some of the tension. This in turn, can help your kids transition into the new school year without too much trouble.

SEE ALSO: One Question Identifies Teens at High Risk of Alcohol Abuse

Notice the Signs

Depression for kids is a real thing and as we’ve been discussing, this can be especially prevalent as school begins. Here is a list of symptoms to be on the lookout for as your kids head back to their daily grind:

• Sadness

• Irritability

• Agitation

• Over-sensitivity

• Lethargy

• Difficulty concentrating

• Eating more/less than normal

• Sleeping more/less than normal

• Low self-esteem

• Disinterest in activities

• Social isolation

• Frequent sicknesses

Understanding the Why

It can be hard to cope with moody kids, or unexplainable outbursts. Before you can effectively influence your child’s behavior and give him or her the ability to cope, it helps to know where they’re coming from. School can be rough even on the best of days. Here are typical causes for your kids not wanting to go back to school:

• Anxiety and fear of the unknown – This could be new schools, new classes, new teacher, new routine, new friends, or just pressure to do well. All of this together can prove to be too much at times.

• Fear of rejection – For some kids, the fear of rejection can be enough to throw them into a tail spin. Wanting to fit in, and be accepted is at the core of all human beings. Kids are no different.

• Lack of friends – Some kids find it hard to connect. Sometimes because they’re different or have different interests than the kids around them. Sometimes, because they just switched schools or moved to a new city.

• Disinterest in school work – Not all kids love the learning process. Going back to school can mean more work, less fun, and a lot of hassle for these kids.

• Loss of a family member or pet – After the loss of someone or something near and dear, it can take a while to feel like things are normal. Kids who’ve lost someone over the summer holiday may find going back to school and continuing on with the daily grind to be overwhelming.

• Being bullied – Kids can be brutal. As everyone learns their place in their social system, bullies inevitably rise. Generally speaking, it’s because they, themselves feel victimized. However, it doesn’t make the victim of their bullying feel any better. Being forced back into a situation that could lead to bullying is enough to make any child feel anxious about returning to school.

• Boredom – Some kids find school boring. This is usually one of two things: either they aren’t getting enough help or they aren’t challenged enough.

• Recent move to a new school – New schools bring new challenges and anxieties. Having to learn the layout, to making new friends—or leaving old ones behind can be at the core of a child’s back to school blues.

• Problems with authority – Some kids go from very laid back summer vacations to the regimen of daily school routines. This can cause a kickback effect towards authoritative teachers, or school rules.

• Dislike of the structure – While most kids thrive in structure, it can certainly be a wakeup call after lazy summer lay ins, and late bedtime rituals. Many children will automatically want to return to the days of less stress.

• Homework anxiety – With advancing a year, comes harder lessons. This can cause homework anxiety and fears of being able to perform.

• Tough transitioning – Not all kids are good with transitions. Unsurprisingly enough, not all adults are either. Some kids need a longer period of time to transition so the change from summer to school isn’t so abrupt.

Help Your Kids Deal

If you notice any of the signs happening with you kids, it’s time to put your thinking cap on. Try to put yourself in their shoes and uncover the reasons for their behavior. By doing so, you can more easily understand how to help your kids deal with the changes and go on to have a great school year. We have 10 ways to help you help your kids cope. Let’s check them out:

1. Incorporate fun – Just because kids are back in school, don’t stop having a good time with your them. Remember to bring that summer fun feeling into the rest of the year by spending quality time together.

2. Listen – Sometimes all it takes is a shoulder to lean on and a little validation from a parent. Listen to your child’s fears and anxieties without dismissing them.

3. Regulate bedtimes (and rise times) – Kids need extra sleep. This is especially true as they take on new information. Regulate your kids’ bedtimes so they make sense with their rise times. If your kids struggle with an earlier bedtime, help them get more exercise throughout the day to tire them out.

4. Talk about your experiences – Sometimes kids think they’re all alone in their anxieties. By talking with them about your own experiences and fears when you were a child, you may help them work through their own.

5. Encourage kids to find solutions – Whatever your child is dealing with, help them to find solutions to their back to school blues. By putting them in charge of their own emotional state, circumstances, and surroundings, you give them tools they can take with them far beyond the reach of school.

6. Let your kids pick out their supplies – Perhaps a tad trivial, but this works well for younger children who don’t have much day in things. By allowing them to pick out their own school supplies, you’re giving them something they can control.

7. Get them prepared – A lot of anxiety stems from the unknown. You can alleviate this by taking your children on a walk-through of their school and class schedule. You can even practice opening the locks on their new lockers.

8. Set up a study sanctuary – It can be hard to get homework done when there’s a million things going on. Kids do much better when they have their own quiet place to study. Help your kids create a study sanctuary to make those at-home study sessions easier.

9. End of summer play-dates – For kids who haven’t had the opportunity to get together with school friends, the end of summer is a great time to reach out. Set up one or two a few weeks before the start of school to help your kids reconnect.

10. Healthy eating – When school is back into full swing, be sure your kids are getting the quality foods their bodies need. This is especially important as they load their brains up with all kinds of new information.

Just for Parents

Interestingly enough, Back to School Blues doesn’t just strike students. It can have an impact on parents as well. As much as we love the peace that falls with children attending classes again, there can also be a glimmer of depression as the fun, relaxed atmosphere of summer evaporates. Here are 5 ways you can get your groove back when school is in session:

1. Get enough sleep – Parents need adequate sleep, too. Don’t burn the candle at both ends and wonder why you’re irritable.

2. Wake up early – If you have a lot on your plate, having time to yourself might be in short supply. You may think it’s counter-intuitive, but waking up a little early (even 15 minutes!) can allow you to grab some much-needed “you" time before your hectic day begins.

3. Nourish your body – Just like with your kiddos, eating right gives you the fuel you need to support your day. It keeps your body and mind functioning optimally. Be sure to drink plenty of water, too!

4. Support your relationships – As much as we love our kids, we also need time with the other relationships we have in our lives. Spend time with friends, family, and others who make you feel good. Not only will this keep you more balanced, but it will also be a lifesaver once your kids are done with school and moving on to bigger things.

5. Set schedules – When you’ve got a lot going on, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. It may sound like a hassle, but having a game plan for homework times, etc. can make a big difference. Keep yourself as organized as possible with a detailed calendar and schedule. It will eliminate a lot of anxiety on everyone’s part.

Transitioning from laid-back summer days to the hustle and bustle of school can be stressful. Noticing the signs, taking time to understand the why, and taking action to alleviate some of your children’s fears can smooth the way. Don’t forget to take care of yourself as parents, too. We hope you all have a safe, happy, healthy new school year!


Carissa Andrews is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and author. You can learn more about her at her website.


The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.