Stressed for September? Psychologist shares tips to help with back to school anxiety

Preparing to go back to school can be stressful for many young people, but a St. John's psychologist is offering some tips on how to handle the anxiety of going back to class.

Dr. Janine Hubbard, a registered psychologist and communications director with the Association of Psychology Newfoundland and Labrador, says new friends, new teachers or a new school can all cause stress for students.

"A lot of it is fear of the unknown — social concerns, for sure, in the younger grades," Hubbard said.

"Who's going to be in my class? What if I don't know anybody? What if my best friend isn't in my class?"


Hubbard said the best first step is to ask kids how they're feeling and help them with their worries, no matter how small they may seem.

"Ask your kids, are there things you're worried about? Are there things you're wondering about, or concerned about or that are stressing you out at the moment?" she said.

"And validate them, a lot of these concerns as adults sound really petty."

More sleep, less screen time

The beginning of a new school year is a good time for a "fresh start," Hubbard said, and while it may be unpopular with kids, it's important to get sleep and technology use back on a structured schedule.

"Both of those are things that tend to become far more lenient over the summer," she said.

Hubbard suggests making gradual adjustments to bedtime, going to bed 15 minutes earlier every two to three nights, and to power down phones and computers an hour before bed.

Stress is common for students, but the concern usually fades within the first week or two, Hubbard said. She suggests speaking with a guidance counselor or psychologist if the anxiety persists beyond the first few weeks of school. 

Stress for parents, too

Hubbard said parents can feel the stress of going back to school as well, and that stress is often financial.

"Your kid doesn't need the shiniest and newest of everything, and sometimes, actually, you're better off waiting and seeing what their needs are going to be for that grade," she said.

"You don't have to be out buying everything before Labour Day."

Hubbard recommends doing something summery as a family, like having a campfire or going hiking, to beat stress in the first few weeks of the new school year.

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