September 07, 2022

Back to School Student Anxiety: Helpful Tips for Afterschool Educators

By UAN Awesome Team |

The first day of school jitters is something we have all felt before . Going back to school can be an exciting time. New people, new classes, and new environments but some students may experience back to school anxiety. Feeling anxious is a fairly normal reaction when experiencing exciting, stressful or new situations. Educators who know how to identify anxious behavior can help boost student morale and happiness.

Here are some tips for helping students with anxiety brought to you from Right At

1. Look for signs and symptoms of anxiety.

While experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, feeling too much anxiety can interfere with daily activities, like schoolwork.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry.” Further, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that “because anxious children may also be quiet, compliant, and eager to please, their difficulties may be missed.”

Anxiety can trigger a number of changes in children’s behaviors or mood. Common symptoms and signs include:

  • Frequent crying
  • Tantrums
  • Inattention
  • Inability to sit still
  • Nail chewing
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Fatigue, headaches, or stomach aches
  • Needing to go to the bathroom more than usual
  • Withdrawal from peers and activities

2. Focus more time and attention on social skill activities during after school.

Before and after school enrichment can provide students with hours of positive socialization and social skill development  every week — and renew their sense of belonging in the school community. Whether developing an in-house program or partnering with an outside organization, be sure to look for a provider or staff with a proven track record in SEL. A great resource to learn more about social skill fundamentals is 

The benefits of learning social skills include: 

  • Clearer communication with your peers
  • Maintain a positive outlook on life, and inspire others to do the same
  • Develop self-control, both for negative emotions and impulsivity
  • Dissolve conflicts and address differences with colleagues effectively
  • Become empathetic and see problems from someone else’s perspective

3. Use routines to help reduce students’ stress and anxiety.

Routines are an important part of the school day, and they should be an integral part of before and after school experiences, too. Routines provide a sense of security. They allow children to feel safe and teach them how to manage themselves and their environments — all of which can reduce stress and anxiety.

For example, Right At School starts each morning and afternoon with a routine we call Town Hall. This is an opportunity to gather as a community to celebrate student birthdays and accomplishments, set expectations for the day, reinforce character traits, and reflect on the prior day’s learning.

4. Encourage students to mentor younger peers.

Mentoring is another effective way to reduce anxiety. Mentoring can help older children develop more confidence in themselves and their abilities, and help younger children feel encouraged and inspired. Because older children thrive on early leadership opportunities but rarely get the chance to be around younger peers during the school day, Right At School developed the Junior Educator Program. Through this program, fourth and fifth grade students are provided an opportunity to become peer leaders. Mentored by highly trained and experienced staff, they learn to plan and organize program activities for younger peers, spearhead service learning projects, and lead peers in team-building and self-esteem boosting activities.

5. Create opportunities for children to help others.

High levels of anxiety can make kids turn inward and focus on themselves. Turning attention toward helping others can boost feelings of well-being, and help them feel socially connected and happier. Try utilizing service learning to instill positive character traits, belonging, and leadership. An example is a thematic unit called Right Club Gives Back, where students launch service projects of their own interests, including collecting socks for homeless shelter residents, making cards for a community nursing home, and sending messages of appreciation to U.S. troops overseas.

The school year is full of promise and potential. Anxiety can negatively affect students’ academic performance and trigger disruptive behaviors — and the post pandemic anxiety is adding extra layers of tension and worry. Integrating these strategies before, during, and afterschool can give youth the tools to tackle stress and anxiety now and into the future. Anxiety symptoms that persist beyond the first few weeks of school and that seem excessive may require consultation with an expert. Consulting a professional can help children and parents understand the child’s symptoms and work together on resolving them.

There are steps we can take as after school educators to help youth manage their worries and create a strong foundation that sets youth up for success. Integrating these strategies before, during, and afterschool can give youth the tools to tackle stress and anxiety now and into the future. 

“6 Ways to Ease Student Anxiety.” Right At School, 4 Apr. 2022, 

Epperson, Andrew. “The Importance of Teaching Social Skills.” PBIS Rewards, 10 Dec. 2020,