Easing Back-to-School Anxieties for Kids & Parents

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Transitioning back to school can be nerve-wracking for parents and kids alike. Even without a pandemic, starting a new academic year can be stressful, anxiety-inducing, and frustrating for everyone involved.

So how can we feel emotionally healthy in an unpredictable time for families? And when many folks are fixating on the negative, how can we accentuate the positive—even if we’re dreading the end of summertime?

Audience Questions

Julie B. Cullen, LICSW, EdM, shares tips and tricks to feel more excited about the upcoming school year, provides methods of lowering anxiety for both children and adults, and answers audience questions about how we can all feel a little more at ease about whatever the school year may bring.

  • What are some of the most common reasons for kids to feel back-to-school anxiety?
  • What are some of the most common concerns or anxieties that pop up in parents and guardians around a new school year?
  • How may this anxiety appear in kids and teens?
  • How can we address avoidant behaviors and determine if it’s linked to anxiety, e.g. skipping class, putting their head down on their desk, or saying, “I don’t feel well, I’m not going?”
  • When are the signs of anxiety more than just “typical anxiety” and may point to more of a problem?
  • Can skipping class/school/work be a manifestation of anxiety or a desire for control over your life? Or is this “desire for control” another manifestation of anxiety?
  • What can we do to lower our own anxiety? I’m concerned about what my kids are picking up from my own worrisome behavior.
  • As parents, children, and teachers are all being negatively impacted by the pandemic, how can caregivers discuss or address anxiety, depression, and substance use?
  • Can you talk more about why bedtime is difficult for people with anxiety?
  • How can we address parent and child anxiety around school shootings?
  • In order to get my child to engage in social activities, I have to say that I will enforce a punishment if he refuses to be social. Once at the activity, he has fun and seems fine. What are other ways I can encourage him to be social and address this anxiety?
  • A lot of young people use their online friends as a support system, but some parents see this as a type of physical isolation. How can we be okay with this behavior while also encouraging more in-person socializing for young adults with anxiety?
  • How can we be supportive and understanding of anxiety in people close to us, especially when they choose to not address their anxiety?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Julie B. Cullen

Julie B. Cullen, LICSW, EdM, is a licensed social worker with over a decade of experience providing individual, group, and family therapy for children, adolescents, and their families.

Julie has intensive training in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and has worked extensively with clinicians from The Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, using their ARC model of trauma treatment.

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Originally aired August 19, 2021