On Your Mind: How to handle school anxiety

Dear Tom,

My daughter is starting Kindergarten this month and she is really anxious about it. I know a certain amount of anxiety about starting school is normal, but I’m worried that she is spending a lot of time feeling scared about this transition – especially at bedtime. I’m not sure if it’s a healthy amount of worry or not. She went to preschool for two years, so I know she can handle being away from me and away from home. What can I do to make this big transition month a little better for her and ease her mind?

Dear Mom,

Transition to a school or new school setting is a significant event in a child’s and many times a parent’s life, too. The child is growing and developing into new environments and new relationships.

One of the most important ways to support your child is to help them have a positive relationship with the teacher. This person will be your child’s “go to” person for learning as well as so many other social experiences for the next nine to ten months.

The relationship you have with the teacher, as well as the teacher with you and your child, should be one that reflects safety, consistency, ability to have a talk easily with each other and basically one that promotes positive feelings. If your child feels connected in this way to the adult that is in his/her life outside of their home, it will promote feelings of emotional and physical safety.

Here are some fun ways to do this:

— allow your child to take pictures of his/her family and/or home to share with teacher/peers,

— talk with the teacher and discuss whether your child can take pictures of his/her teacher and classroom/rooms (music, cafeteria, library) to show these new experiences off at home to the whole family,

— talk with your child about his/her day and what new places or people he/she encountered,

— provide a transition object for children who feel more anxious and worried about this new adventure in their life, such as a favorite toy or stuffed animal

And, most of all, make sure you connect before and after school with your child. Changes, even the positive ones, can be stressful if they are new, and your child may need a little extra emotional fuel and connection time with you, so find something simple to do after school or before that provides this feeling for your child.

Remember that what may seem like a small step to an adult can be an enormous one for a child. Celebrate them every day!

If you need assistance, Ozark Guidance is here to help. You can contact Ozark Guidance at  479-750-2020 or visit ozarkguidance.org to learn more about children services.


Tom Petrizzo serves as CEO of Ozark Guidance and has degrees in social work and law. He has spent the last 20 years managing non-profit centers in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas. He has also served as adjunct faculty at the social work graduate program at three large universities. He’s married to Teri Classick, a licensed clinical social worker, and they have two daughters. When he’s not at work, Tom likes to jog, bike ride, read and he even belted out the National Anthem lately at a Northwest Arkansas Naturals Game!

Tom would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback. Tom will be back each month to answer another woman’s question.

Disclaimer:  This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.