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Back to School Anxiety by Angela Estrada

Back to school can stress out anyone. Not only because of all the back-to-school shopping craziness in the stores but also because of the generally unknown of a new year. Children and parents experience anxiety differently and have different ways of processing it, sometimes it is helpful and sometimes it is not. The purpose of this blog is to help adults communicate with their anxious-ridden students.

Active Listening and Validation

Something that we generally struggle with as adults and as a community is validating kids’ feelings and active listening. Adults fall into the trap of assuming that our kids already know how to process their emotions, how to express their emotions, and even how to control them. This attitude creates a communication barrier between parents and children. It can be very difficult for adults to even come to terms with having to validate the stress of school when they have to deal with the stress of work. However, fostering open communication with our children can help home life feel better, help our children feel more connected and comfortable, teach them to trust people and be able to communicate effectively, and so much more. The following list includes techniques for active listening and validation.

Active Listening

● Pay Attention. No phones. No Tv. No multitasking. Take a few minutes to give your child (and other people) your full attention.

● Body language says a lot: check your facial expressions, uncross your arms, and square your shoulders to face them. Remember your children might not know what this looks like, you are MODELING.

● Avoid judgment. Advice is not always required. Sometimes people JUST want to express themselves.

● Reflect: If you don’t know what to say, summarize what you heard.


● Reflecting Feeling: If you can see or hear an emotion, name it. “I can see that you’re anxious because you don’t know anyone from this new school.”

● What if they’re wrong? Validating is just for emotions. As we know, emotions aren’t logical. Emotions can’t be pushed away, hidden, changed, argued with, or anything of the sort. Our emotions are just meant to be felt. Adults can validate emotions but not actions. “I can see you’re sad because your best friend went to another school.”

● And not But. Imagine you’ve said all the right things when you validate their feelings and then you say the word “but” and all the work that you did goes out the window. “I understand you’re nervous about the new school but you still need to go.” (This actually invalidates their feelings) “I understand you’re nervous about the new school and it will be better once you get used to it.”

These techniques are simply tools for you to create more open communication in your household with your children. You are also able to use these tools when communicating with other people. Anxiety generally arises when we don’t know something. It is very similar to being nervous but it’s taken a step further.


Things to look out for:

● Stomach aches the mornings before school

● Crying, hyperventilating

● Bad grades at school

● Lack of communication with parents

● Isolation

Anxiety feels like:

● Upset stomach (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)

● headaches

● Muscle tension

● Pressure on heart

● Intrusive thoughts

● Raising thoughts

● Hyperventilating

● Lump on throat

● Overwhelmed by external stimuli (people talking, music, noises, smells, bright lights).

Angela Estrada

My mission is to create a safe, nonjudgmental space for my clients to explore within themselves, learn, and grow in the process.


Stress, anxiety, depression, life changes, ADD/ADHD, eating disorders, neurological disorders, emotional disorders, career counseling.

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