Back-to-school can we overwhelming for both kids and parents.
WhereParentsTalk.com spoke with Jason Carey, a Kids Help Phone counselling manager about how to deal
with issues that arise with the back-to-school season.
What are kids’ greatest anxieties when it comes to back-to-school?
Kids who contact us about back-to-school anxieties are often overwhelmed by scenarios they’ve created over the summer. For example, some kids who are graduating from junior school into middle school might expect that there will be more bullies at their new school, or that they will face more peer pressure. They may also worry about having a new teacher or new academic challenges.
What are your top tips for parents for talking to their kids about back-to-school?
Find a time when you and your child are in a good mood before you start the
conversation. Try not to begin with a negative. Instead, begin with a fairly
neutral observation, in a non-judgemental tone:
“I’ve noticed you don’t seem to want to talk about next September…”
Reaffirm that you are not judging them, but just want to understand.
Take time to listen. Start the conversation with an open statement, like, “tell me a
little bit about what you’re thinking.”
Work to open up their hopes or fears to other possibilities. Ask them, “what if it doesn’t happen the way
you’re imagining it will?” Help them understand that things could turn out
Draw from past experiences. Maybe your child changed teachers last year. Ask them
how they handled this change, and draw on their strengths and skills to develop
a plan for how to meet the challenge they are concerned about. The examples you
draw from don’t have to relate to something that happened to them at school.
Break down generalizations
Encourage your child to practice setting boundaries and saying no. Supporting them in developing these skills
will help them resist peer pressure.
Respect your kid’s timing. If they don’t want to talk about it right then, that’s okay, as long as you make sure you do commit to having that discussion.
You could also write letters, or email. As long as there is an exchange it
doesn’t matter how you do it.
Visit www.kidshelpphone.ca together. Let your kid know that they can always call and talk to a
professional Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.
What are some signs parents can look for to
tell if their child is experiencing stress related to back-to-school?
There may be signs that back-to-school is not an easy time for your child. Kids who
are having strong feelings about their new school year may:
have trouble sleeping
do not want to go back-to-school shopping
do not want to talk about school
Parents should also be aware if kids are returning to school with unrealistic
expectations that may lead to disappointment later. For example, the oldest,
most popular kids in a graduating class might not be the oldest and most popular
at a new school.
If you find out your child is being bullied, what should you do?
Bullying can take many different forms. Bullies might work on their own, or in groups,
and their actions can be physical, verbal, or both. Kids can be bullied in person
No matter how the bullying happens, the intention is the same: to hurt someone.
But bullying does more than hurt: it can cause stress and anxiety, sometimes
for years after the bullying has stopped. Feelings of humiliation, shame, and
embarrassment can all last long after the bullying is over, sometimes even into
adulthood, and can lead to a range of psychological and physical symptoms,
including shyness, difficultly concentrating, anxiety, trouble sleeping,
nightmares, stomach aches, and headaches.
If there is a kid in your life who is dealing with stress and anxiety brought on
by bullying, remember that bullying has long-term effects. What you do today
can lead the path to strong, resilient and confident people of tomorrow.
• Tell them it isn’t their fault.
Nothing justifies treating someone badly. Kids might have added anxiety over telling you they are being bullied because they feel it’s tattling. Let them know confiding in someone isn’t the same at
tattling, especially when it comes to their safety.
• Get informed.
might helpful for your child or teen to learn as much as they can about
bullying. Kidshelpphone.ca has information about what to do if you’re being
bullied. It also has an online forum where visitors can post their own experiences
with bullying. It can be helpful to see that you’re not alone in this.
• Get advice.
it helps to get advice from another friend, family member, or parent who’s had
experience with bullying.
• Work out a plan.
Work out a plan together to end the bullying. This might mean contacting an
authority, like a school principal or the police. It might also mean walking
away, or helping your child think of something to say to the bully. Let them
practice the line on you to help them feel comfortable with it.
• Plan to spend some time together.
Spending time with friends and family, especially people who are emotionally close to
and supportive of the child or teen in your life.
• Tell them to call Kids Help Phone.
Counsellors are always here to help talk to kids who are living with stress and
anxiety brought on by bullying. Tell them to give us a call anytime:
1-800-668-6868. They can also leave a question for us online at
How can parents make the transition back-to-school easiest?
Parents can help their kids set realistic expectations. A kid’s biggest hope or worst
fear probably won’t come true. Listen to what their feelings are about going
back to school and then get them thinking about a Plan B. If things don’t go
the way they expect they will, what will they do?
Parents can help them grasp reality and understand what grounds their fears, or hopes,
are based on.