Are you missing these 5 signs that your child is having back-to-school anxiety?

Are you missing these 5 signs that your child is having back-to-school anxiety?

Written by Pragya Lodha
Published: March 9, 2022

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The Mumbai Program Director & Clinical Psychologist at The MINDS Foundation. Honorary Associate Editor for the Indian Journal of Mental Health with over 100 National and International publications

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Table of Contents
  • arrow-right Changes in routine
  • arrow-right Seeking constant reassurance
  • arrow-right Mood swings
  • arrow-right Physical pain
  • arrow-right Repeated avoidance
arrow-right References

Child psychologists have labeled the fear of returning to school ‘back to school anxiety’, and it is estimated to affect 1 in 3 children. After years of online school, many children are worried about being around their peers, being away from their families, and their ability to perform academically in a classroom setting.

“The pandemic has seriously affected children’s mental health, with many children expressing fear of socialization and poor academic performance. Parents need to pay extra attention to their children to identify signs of anxiety.”

Ms Pragya Lodha, a psychologist with MINDS Foundation says parents can help their children by identifying and addressing their anxiety

Identifying anxiety can be difficult, but we’ve made it simple with these 5 signs your child is experiencing higher-than-usual anxiety

1. Changes in routine

Is your child eating or sleeping differently ? Anxiety can reduce a child’s appetite, or encourage them to stress-eat. It can also cause insomnia, or tire them out so that they sleep much more than normal. Any changes in a child’s regular schedule may be indicative of stress and is worth paying attention to. What parents can do ? Listen from an expert Jitin Chawla.

2. Seeking constant reassurance

Sometimes, children will repeatedly ask questions about school such as “what if I don’t have any friends in my class?” or “what if I get sick at school?”. This is their way of seeking reassurance from you in an uncertain time. Be patient with them and answer their questions honestly so that they know what to expect. 

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3. Mood swings

Although mood swings can be a normal part of growing up, any unusual bouts of anger or irritability can be a sign that your child is struggling with back-to-school anxiety and displacing their anxiety into other emotions. 

4. Physical pain

Anxiety can affect the body, too. If your child is complaining of frequent headaches or stomach aches, they may be experiencing psychosomatic pain, which is pain caused by emotional or mental stress. They may also be trying to avoid school and related events. 

5. Repeated avoidance

If they refuse to attend school-related events, such as shopping for a new school uniform, meeting their school friends for a playdate, or touring a new school, it’s likely that they are experiencing anxiety about returning to school.

  • Kamran, A., & Naeim, M. (2021). Managing Back to School Anxiety During a COVID-19 Outbreak. Journal Of Nervous & Mental Disease209(4), 244-245. doi: 10.1097/nmd.0000000000001313
  • Lopes-Júnior, L., Siqueira, P., & Maciel, E. (2021). School reopening and risks accelerating the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. PLOS ONE16(11), e0260189. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0260189
  • Schwartz, K., Exner-Cortens, D., McMorris, C., Makarenko, E., Arnold, P., & Van Bavel, M. et al. (2021). COVID-19 and Student Well-Being: Stress and Mental Health during Return-to-School. Canadian Journal Of School Psychology36(2), 166-185. doi: 10.1177/08295735211001653
  • Waters, L., Allen, K., & Arslan, G. (2021). Stress-Related Growth in Adolescents Returning to School After COVID-19 School Closure. Frontiers In Psychology12. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.643443Yang, C., Chen, A., & Chen, Y. (2021). College students’ stress and health in the COVID-19 pandemic: The role of academic workload, separation from school, and fears of contagion. PLOS ONE16(2), e0246676. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0246676

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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