Managing Anxiety: Back-to-School Strategies for Caregivers

Transitioning back to school can be stressful for a child and their caregivers, especially if it’s a new start or new school. Children who are sensitive or have development delays may need extra time to adjust to the new schedule, routine, and being away from home. Caregivers can help make the transition easier by following these tips:

  • Make sure the child has a predictable, daily routine.
  • Stay calm and reassure the child during transitions and make goodbyes brief.
  • Talk to the child about what to expect.
  • Remember that everything is a phase and building new relationships is a skill.

Helping young children and parents transition back to school | CDC

Things to do in advance of the first day of school.

HealthyChildren.Org has great tips for caregivers on how to help kids prepare for transition of summer to school. These are all things you can start doing in the weeks leading up to the first day.

  • Remind children that everyone gets nervous on their first day of school. Ask them about what they are worried about and help them talk through ways to handle the worry or problem-solve ways to address the worry.
  • If it is a new school, try to attend all orientations and open houses so the child has a chance to see the new school and walk around prior to the first day of school. Try brining your child to the playground a few days before school starts.
  • Start a school sleep/wake schedule a week ahead of time so that it’s not as hard on the first day of school.
  • Talk to your children about bullying and what to do if they are bullied. Also discuss why they should never bully a child either.
  • Build good homework and study habits and create an environment that is homework friendly. When going over your new school schedule, make sure there is ample time for homework to be done in the evenings.

Back-to-School Tips for Families –

Manage back-to-school anxiety with your child.

One way to get in front of anxious feelings is to check in regularly with your child. The Cleveland Clinic recommends asking these questions daily to gauge your child’s anxiety and to help them work through it.

  • What was the best part of the day? What was the work part?
  • What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch today?
  • What’s something new you learned today?
  • Yesterday, you said you were worried about (fill in the bank.) How did it go?

When School Is Stressful: 5 Tips for Helping Your Child’s School Anxiety 

Supporting caregivers with their own back-to-school stress.

Make sure you are also taking care of yourself and managing your own stress levels. Find healthy ways to practice self-care during this time. For more information on promoting positive mental health, read a previous blog post by the CAC on Promoting Positive Mental Health: Protective Factors for Parents.

Erin’s law requirements for schools

Back to school means children will be engaging in required child sexual abuse prevention in kindergarten through 8th grade. Caregivers can use this added opportunity to discuss these topics at home as well.

What is Erin’s Law?

In 2019, New York state passed Erin’s Law which requires all k-8 public schools in New York state to teach child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention. Erin’s Law is named after Erin Merryn, an abuse survivor who has spent over ten years advocating for child sexual abuse prevention. New York was the 37th state to pass Erin’s Law.

New York has provided guidance to schools on what should be covered in the sexual abuse prevention but there is not one standard curriculum all schools are following.

For caregivers, you can reinforce what the children hear at school by having these discussions at home:

  • Talk about boundaries with your children.
  • Help your children create a list of five adults they could talk to if something unsafe happened to them.
  • Teach your children how to spot red flags.
  • Make sure your child knows it is never their fault if they are abused.
  • Teach your children they have a voice.

It is also important that anyone who works with children or who is around children should know the signs of child abuse and know what to do if they suspect child abuse.

Staff at the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara are trained facilitators of the Monique Burr Foundation: Child Safety Matters and Teen Safety Matters program which is one of the recommended child abuse prevention programs by New York State. Child Safety Matters is developmentally appropriate, research-based, and utilizes prevention research best practices. It teaches children five safety rules to help protect them from sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying and exposure to family violence. If you are interested in learning more about the curriculum, please call the CAC at 716.285.0045.

About MBF Programs – Monique Burr Foundation Monique Burr Foundation (

Erin’s Law | New York State Education Department (

Additional reading and resources:

Back to school resource card for backpacks:

For Educators, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has put together resources to help children in the classroom.