Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Transition Back to School
Does your Highly Sensitive Child or Teen experience a surge in anxiety and dread at the thought of going back to school? Starting a new school year can be worrisome for HSPs of any age because of all the unknowns, the memory of feeling overwhelmed or misunderstood, and struggling with transitions.
Below I offer a few suggestions for how you can help your child or teen ease back into the school year without feeling so overwhelmed and anxious.
Get Ready for School a Few Weeks in Advance
Feeling rushed or in the dark about what the new school year entails will increase anxiety for your child or teen, so it helps to prepare ahead of time:
Return to a school sleep schedule, easing back in slowly if summer bedtime has been much later than usual.
Start meal planning if your child packs a lunch.
Purchase all school supplies and clothes.
Create space to talk about your child’s school worries validate their concerns. It can help to have this conversation in the car or while engaged in an activity.
Make sure your child’s questions about the new school year have been covered. This may involve looking over your child’s schedule, scheduling a meeting with the teacher, taking a tour of the school and/or new classroom, and arranging a meeting with a fellow classmate.
Finalize School Prep A Few Days Early
To minimize anxiety and stress for your Highly Sensitive Child or Teen, have everything prepared and reviewed at least 2-3 days before school starts:
Take a dry run to school and pop into their classroom if possible.
Pack backpack and pick out their first day outfit.
Plan the schedule for the first day back: departure time, lunch, pickup person and after-school events.
Rest and Play the Day Before School Starts
Your child will need plenty of rest to manage all the stimulation and stress of a new school year. The day before school starts should be very relaxed and focused on having low-key fun. Rushing to get supplies or coming back from a vacation will only increase stimulation and anxiety for your child or teen.
Be Mindful About the First Day Back
Give your child the most chance for success by focusing extra attention on the details of the first day back. Feeling your support will help ease their worries:
Make your child’s favorite breakfast.
Get to school early.
Plan to go into school with a friend, if possible.
Prepare a special dinner and quality time afterward.
Give Your Child Time to Process and Adjust After School Starts
Highly Sensitive Children have very perceptive brains that notice subtleties and little details that others miss and are also wired to process all that information thoroughly. With a new school year comes new faces, environment, schedule and sensory input. This means your child is going to come home feeling pretty tired and possibly irritable and/or overwhelmed by all these details. Give your child space to adjust to their new school routine such as quiet leisure time after school before diving into homework or checking in about when they want to talk about their day (i.e. before or at dinner). Perhaps carve out some one-on-one time to connect with your child if they’re more introverted to hear about their experience returning to school.
Although you most likely will not eliminate your child’s worries or anxiety about starting a new school year completely, taking time to prepare and remove as many unknowns as possible helps your Highly Sensitive Child or Teen process this new experience and feel more prepared. This is a great opportunity to honor and validate your child’s innate need to process deeply and ease into new situations.