8 Tips to Help Kids (and Adults!) Overcome Back-to-School Anxiety and Depression

Back-to-School© anandaBGD / Getty Images Signature / Canva

Summer is coming to an end and kids all over the country are dreading the return to school. For some, it’s the fear of having to face another year of difficult classes or dealing with mean teachers. For others, it’s the worry about making friends or being social. And for still others, it might be the sadness of leaving home and all of their friends behind. No matter what your child is struggling with, in this article we are providing tips to help them overcome back-to-school anxiety and depression!

School Is the Top Trigger for Depression and Anxiety in America’s Teens

A new study from Telosity by Vinaj Ventures has found that school is the top trigger for depression and anxiety for a majority of America’s teenagers and young adults. The June survey of 1,000 individuals aged 14-25 also showed that teenagers and young adults embrace technology as a positive force in their lives, in contrast to reports of technology’s negative impact on the cohort’s mental health. This research is vital in understanding how we can best support the mental health of our youth, and it is clear that we need to do more to address the root causes of their stress and anxiety.

It’s time to face the facts: mental health disorders are on the rise, and young people are bearing the brunt of this epidemic. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34, and 1 in 6 youth between the ages of 6 and 17 experience a mental health disorder. These numbers are alarming, but they don’t tell the whole story. The new survey depicts a cohort suffering from anxiety (69.4%) and depression (52.7%); only 21.4% report never experiencing either of those challenges. But it also demonstrates the younger demographic’s resilience and willingness to explore different avenues to nurture their well-being, whether through technology, such as telehealth, wellness apps or social media, or through more time-tested avenues, such as being in nature, cooking, traveling or spending time with friends. It’s time to break the stigma around mental health and start talking about these issues openly and honestly. Only then can we hope to find solutions that work for everyone.

It’s time for a change. It’s time to take action and create a better future for ourselves, our children, and our world. Catastrophic events such as school shootings are taking their toll on young people, with more than 50% of respondents now concerned about attending school in person. We can’t sit back and allow this to happen. We must take action to protect our children and give them the future they deserve. Along with school, respondents cited family, friends, society’s expectations and COVID as leading causes of mental health challenges.

Serious Mental Health Issues in Children

Although some fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. If your child seems excessively fearful or sad, it’s important to talk to their doctor. Strong fears may appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often very distressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe and cared for.

Many children have fears and worry, and may feel sad and hopeless from time to time. However, if your child is experiencing these emotions on a regular basis, it could be a sign of an underlying mental health condition. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re concerned about your child’s mental health. Early intervention can make a big difference in their long-term well-being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anxiety and depression affect many children:

  • 9.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 5.8 million) had diagnosed anxiety in 2016-2019, and
  • 4.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 2.7 million) had diagnosed depression during that same period.

Additionally, anxiety and depression have increased over time:

  • “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6-17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012,
  • “Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety” among children aged 6-17 years increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012, and
  • “Ever having been diagnosed with depression” among children aged 6-17 years did not change between 2007 (4.7%) and 2011–2012 (4.9%).

While the rates of anxiety and depression among children may be increasing, it’s important to remember that these are still treatable conditions. With the right support, children can and do recover.

Overcoming Your Child’s Fear of Going Back to School

Back-to-school season is always an anxious time for children. They are leaving the safety and comfort of their homes and venturing into an unknown environment. There are so many potential stressors: separating from parents, meeting academic expectations, managing peer groups, and navigating loud, crowded school hallways and cafeterias. This doesn’t even consider catastrophic events such as school shootings and COVID. That’s why it’s important for parents to talk to their children about their anxieties and help them develop strategies for managing stress.

Emotional intelligence is a critical life skill that will help children thrive in school and beyond. Parents can teach their children how to identify and manage their emotions, set boundaries, communicate effectively, and problem-solve. These skills will help children navigate the challenges of back-to-school season and beyond. Here are a few tips for overcoming back-to-school anxiety and depression:

1. Talk to your kids about their anxiety and depression

As a parent, it’s natural to want your kids to be happy and successful. But sometimes, anxiety and depression can get in the way of that. If you think your child might be struggling with anxiety or depression, it’s important to talk to them about it. Let them know that you’re there for them and that you want to help them feel better. Help them understand what anxiety and depression are and how they can manage their symptoms. Encourage them to seek professional help if necessary. And most importantly, let them know that you love them no matter what. By opening up the lines of communication, you can help your child get the support they need to overcome anxiety and depression.

2. Help them get organized and set goals for the school year

One of the best things you can do to help your child is to get them organized and set goals for the school year. This will give them a sense of order and purpose, and help to keep their anxiety and depression in check. Start by sitting down with them and making a list of all the things they need to do in order to succeed in school. This may include tasks like studying for exams, doing homework, and participating in extracurricular activities. Once they have a list of tasks, help them to prioritize their time by setting goals for each week. For instance, they may want to study for two hours each day or participate in a club activity once a week. By getting organized and setting goals, you can help your child to manage their anxiety and depression, and succeed in school.

3. Encourage them to get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy diet

It’s important to encourage your child to get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy diet. By instilling healthy habits at a young age, you’ll set your child up for a lifetime of good health. This not only helps them to maintain a healthy weight, but it also reduces the risk of anxiety and depression. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects, and eating a healthy diet provides the nutrients that the brain needs to function properly. Moreover, both exercise and a healthy diet can help to reduce stress levels. So make sure to encourage your child to get moving and eat right!

4. Set a regular bedtime schedule and stick to it as much as possible

According to the National Sleep Foundation, anxiety and depression are two major reasons why people don’t get enough sleep. And anxiety and depression are two major problems that can be helped by setting and following a regular bedtime schedule. When you set a regular bedtime for your child and stick to it as much as possible, you’re helping your child to get the sleep he or she needs. And when your child gets the sleep he or she needs, you’re helping to prevent anxiety and depression. So set a regular bedtime schedule for your child and stick to it as much as possible. It’s good for your child’s mental health—and it’s good for yours, too.

5. Spend time with your kids doing things they enjoy

When you’re spending time with your kids, you’re not only providing them with love and support, but you’re also distracting from their anxiety and depression. In addition, when you’re spending time with your kids doing things they enjoy, you’re also creating memories that will last a lifetime. Anxiety and depression are serious conditions that should not be taken lightly, but there are treatments available that can make a world of difference. Spending time with your kids doing things they enjoy is one of the best treatments for anxiety and depression. So make a point to spend some quality time with your kids doing things they enjoy, and watch how it positively impacts their overall well-being.

6. Encourage positive self-talk – remind your child that they can do anything they set their mind to

As adults, we often forget how much power our words have. We say things to ourselves like, “I’m so stupid,” or “I can’t do this,” without realizing the impact that those words can have on our anxiety and depression levels. However, research has shown that the things we say to ourselves can either increase or decrease our resilience in the face of adversity. This is why it’s so important to encourage positive self-talk in our children. By reminding them that they can do anything they set their mind to, we give them the power to overcome any challenges they may face. In addition, we help them to develop a more positive outlook on life, which can lead to increased happiness and success.

7. Encourage your child to take breaks when needed and not don’t push themself too hard

We all want our children to succeed. However, it’s important to encourage your child to take breaks when needed and not push themselves too hard. Anxiety and depression can be exacerbated by excessive pressure and stress. By giving your child the opportunity to relax and recharge, you can help them stay healthy and happy both mentally and physically. Additionally, it’s important to model healthy behavior for your child. If you are always working and never taking breaks, your child is less likely to see the importance of taking care of themselves. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance will benefit both you and your child in the long run.

8. Let them know that you’re always available to listen (and offer support)

Probably the most significant thing a parent can do is let their child know that they’re always available to listen and offer support. If your child is struggling, it’s necessary to be there for them. Let them know that you’re always available to talk, and offer your support in whatever way you can. Sometimes just knowing that someone is there for you can make all the difference. So if your child is struggling, make sure they know that you’re always there for them.

When to Seek Help for Your Child

Returning to school, after a long summer break, can be an exciting time for children. However, for some kids, the return to school also brings worries and anxieties about making new friends, doing well in classes, or being away from home. If your child’s worries about returning to school become overwhelming or start to interfere with his or her ability and willingness to attend school or participate in other normal activities, such as camping, beloved sports, or playdates, it may be time to consult with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in child anxiety. Your pediatrician, school guidance counselor, or health care plan may be able to recommend experts in your area. MentalHealth.gov and the American Psychological Association offer online search tools for mental health professionals who can help.

Did this article help you understand more about child anxiety and depression, and how to deal with it? Sign up for our free newsletter below for even more tips on helping your family thrive.

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This article is intended for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only and should not be construed as advice, guidance or counsel. It is provided without warranty of any kind.