It is very normal for students to have back-to-school anxiety, particularly following the challenging school year of 2020-2021. Some students have not been back in the classroom since 2020; others, like Wye River Upper School students, were back on a hybrid schedule in early 2021. Getting back to a fully in-person school schedule is both exciting - and worrisome - for most students. It is important for school staff and parents to reassure students that it is ok to feel anxious and to seek out someone to talk to as needed.
High school is a major change from the lower school years. Students might become anxious due to the expectation of becoming independent and responsible for their learning experience. Classes become more difficult and students are given more responsibility for their education. Although this is a necessary step in the student’s development to become an independent adult, it can cause anxiety. Students need to be reminded by parents and teachers/staff that low grades or failing a test does not define them but, instead, remind them that setbacks are a part of learning and that their ability in a class can increase through practice. Bottom line - everything is not going to come easily and that's ok.
There are many other factors that can cause back-to-school anxiety, including making friends and being accepted. It takes time for all students to become comfortable in a new school but for students with high functioning autism and those who learn differently, it can be exceptionally difficult. The staff at Wye River Upper School helps students feel more at ease in many different ways, including facilitating friendships. One way in which we do this is by pairing students together on projects, encouraging them to get to know one another in a small group setting.
At Wye River Upper School, we encourage parents to ensure that their student feels their support and enable them to be the steward of their education. If your student gets a bad grade or is not understanding something in a class, support them and remind them that learning is an ongoing process. Help your student develop skills that enable them to be in control of their learning. Also remind them of their unique qualities, such as their sense of humor, athletic ability, perseverance, or artistic talent - anything that makes them stand out. Allowing them to have free time when they need a break from school work to relax is equally important.
Finally, feel free to contact Wye River Upper School if your student is having anxiety and needs additional support. We are here to help. We recognize that students differ widely in their support needs for anxiety and we want all of our students to feel comfortable, safe, and feel important in school. For additional information and resources, please check out recommendations for coping with back-to-school anxiety, especially during Covid, from Cedars Sinai and Children’s Health.