siskin children's institute
show full navigation
search this site

Children can experience a lot of different emotions when returning back to school after the summer break. Anxiety is one of the most common feelings children experience at the beginning of the school year. Anxiety often is our reaction to the unknown. 

There are a lot of unknowns in a child’s life when they return back to school. 
Some common worries children have may include: 

  • Who are my classmates? 
  • Will I like my teacher?
  • Who will I sit next to? 
  • What will I be served for lunch? 
  • What will I play during recess?
  • Who will I play with? 
  • And the list continues…..

Some children are able to communicate their feelings using words; others express their emotions through behaviors (oppositional, socially withdrawing etc.) and physical symptoms (complaining of stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping)

Here are some ways in which you can help ease their transition back to school: 

  • Encourage building of your child’s emotional vocabulary by helping them connect their internal feelings with behaviors and emotion words (e.g. when I feel nervous my hands get sweaty). This can help the child better recognize their feelings and ask for help or use their coping skills as soon as they notice their body’s physical cues.
  • Normalize their feelings. Remind the child that there are no good or bad feelings. Feeling anxious is very normal. 
  • Re-establish morning, bedtime and mealtime routines a couple of weeks before school starts. Discuss the drop off and pick up plans in detail so the child knows what to expect. This can be done by writing it down or making a picture schedule. The more your child can anticipate events, the more she will feel in control of her daily environment. 
  • Develop a back-to-school narrative with your child. Work with your child in making up a story about going back to school. This story can include your child as the main character or someone else. Help your child problem solve through storytelling. Children often share their inner feelings through play. Storytelling is a wonderful way to learn more about their concerns and fun way for them to learn adaptive coping skills!
  • Openly talk about them returning back-to-school. Ask your child about things they are excited about and things they are nervous about with respect to school. Openly (but in an age appropriate way) share about some of your own challenges as a student and talk about how you overcame them. This can be a casual conversation you have in the car or while coloring together. 
  • Teach and practice relaxation skills including deep breathing, meditation, etc. regularly. Blowing bubbles is a great way to practice deep breathing. This can help decrease some physical symptoms of anxiety. 
  • Visit the school with your child. Re-orient your child to their school. If the building is locked, walk around the school or play in the playground 
  • Built up the excitement! Help your child get excited about their return to school. Go backpack and school supplies shopping together! Help them pick out their outfit for their first day back! 
  • Transitional objects are a great way to help some children feel emotionally safe as they transition into a new environment. Depending on the child’s age this can be a teddy bear they take with them; a sign they make for the classroom or a note from a parent that they carry around in their pocket. 
  • Assign a “safe person” at school. This can be a teacher or staff member. This person can remind your child to use her relaxation skills when anxious. 

By: Dr. Amrita Uttamchandani, Clinical Psychologist, Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics

About the author
AMRITA UTTAMCHANDANI, PSY. D.

Dr. Uttamchandani  is a Clinical Psychologist with expertise in developmental delays. Dr. Uttamchandani’s particular specialty is working with children and adolescents who exhibit behavioral and emotional problems. She provides support for parents while working with children and adolescents to identify their struggles and develop adaptive ways to resolve them. Her perspective encourages collaboration between teachers, parents, family, and healthcare providers as they support the well-being of the child. Dr. Uttamchandani conducts psychological assessments to provide diagnosis clarification and treatment recommendations. She provides therapy in English, Hindi and Urdu, and, for clients who do not speak those languages, she is trained to provide therapy in the presence of an interpreter. 


As the use of technology and screens increases with young children, we asked Charity Somo from our Developmental Family Therapy Center to share her top 4 tips for ensuring our kids use these devices in a helpful and not harmful manner. See below for her tips and tricks to help parents help guide their child in the healthy use of technology.

1. Make an informed decision about technology. 

  • Is that technology age appropriate for your child? Having certain technological gadgets can be trendy. However, before investing in a certain technology ask yourself if your child needs that technology and what he/she will do with it.  
  • Is that app/game/website age appropriate for your child? Children often appear to be digitally advanced. While they can search and find apps and information with ease, they do not know how to judge and evaluate the information. Children need parental guidance to evaluate the online information they consume. Take the time to sit and go over apps/games/information with your children and teach them good decision making on digital activities.  

2. Be pro-active about technology. 
  • What is your child doing with the technology?  Children can do a lot of cool things with technology. This does not mean parents should leave them to their own devices. Devise a way to monitor your child’s digital activity. Try a family media agreement contract! 
  • Did you set up the parental controls on the technology? 
  • Does your child ask for your permission to be on that app/game/website? Parents can use parental controls to help children select non-harmful ways to engage with technology. Since parental controls cannot safe guard all digital activity, make sure your children ask for your permission before they download an app or visit websites.  
3. Manage your own technology use. 
  • How do you engage with your technology? Loving or hating technology are neither good options. Parents should have a healthy appreciation for technology and maintain healthy habits with their own technology. Moderate participation with your child on their apps/games is a healthy way to mentor them on good use of technology. Maintaining your own healthy use of technology sets a good example for your child. 
4. Build healthy family routines and habits. 
  • Do you have family time set aside daily? 
  • Do you intentionally interact with your child daily? Family time is important to enhance social skills, including communication, conflict management and emotional intelligence. Be intentional to create daily moments when they spend time engaging with their children, this can include dinner, watching TV together, or reading a bedtime story. 

Learn more about managing screen time by attending the upcoming workshop, Finding Balance: Screen Time.

References | Heitner, D. 2016. Screen wise: Helping kids thrive (and survive) in their digital world. Bibliomotion:  New York.  Bully Stoppers. Growing up digital: opportunities and challenges for parents. https://slideplayer.com/slide/5679167/ 
Additional Resources | 
Common sense media. Select “parents need to know” tab. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

As they grow, children are always learning new things. Below are just some of the things you should look for as your child grows. Use this as a guide, and if you have any concerns, talk with your child’s medical provider. 

At 6 months, many children

  • respond to own name
  • respond to other people’s emotions and often seem happy
  • copy sounds
  • like to play with others, especially parents

At 1 year (12 months), many children
  • use simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye” 
  • say “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”
  • copy gestures
  • respond to simple spoken requests
At 1 ½ years (18 months), many children
  • play simple pretend, such as feeding a doll 
  • point to show others something interesting
  • show a full range of emotions, such as happy, sad, angry
  • say several single words

At 2 years (24 months), many children

  • say sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • follow simple instructions
  • get excited when with other children
  • point to things or pictures when they are named
At 3 years (36 months), many children
  • show affection for friends without prompting
  • carry on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences
  • copy adults and friends
  • play make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
At 4 years (48 months), many children
  • tell stories 
  • would rather play with other children than by themselves
  • play cooperatively with others
Questions to ask your child’s doctor:
  • Is my child’s development on track for his or her age?
  • How can I track my child’s development?
  • What should I do if I’m worried about my child’s progress?
  • Where can I get more information?
Learn more by visiting, www.cdc.gov/actearly 1-800-CDC-INFO
Learn the Signs. Act Early.

* Information adapted from the Center for Disease Control.