Back-to-school anxiety in kids: What to watch out for

By Gail Belsky

At a glance

  • Many kids are anxious about going back this year.

  • They may worry that they’ve fallen behind and won’t catch up.

  • Kids have to adjust to everything from socializing to schedules.

Some kids get anxious over the start of school every year. This year, many more may be feeling stressed about going back. That’s especially true for kids who struggle with learning or with making friends, and those with anxiety.

Many kids haven’t done full-time in-person schooling for a year and a half. They’ll need to adjust to learning in a traditional classroom. They may have to get used to new rules about social distancing or wearing masks. And they’ll also have to interact more with peers and adults than they have in a while. 

Some kids are starting the year with difficulties they didn’t really have — or didn’t notice — before the pandemic. And kids who already had challenges may have fallen behind or be struggling more than ever.

Here are some other things kids are likely to be anxious about as school starts this year:

  • Being behind and not being able to catch up
  • Seeing other kids and fitting in after being away so long
  • Not being prepared for changes or not knowing what to expect

Kids may need extra support as they head back to school. But there are things families and educators can do to ease the transition and help kids manage anxiety.

Dive deeper

    Tell us what interests you


    About the author

    About the author

    Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jerome Schultz, PhD is a clinical neuropsychologist and lecturer in the Harvard Medical School Department of Child Psychiatry.