Dealing with Back to School Stress

Updated: Mar 30

By Dr. Marika Berni, ND

Kids can get stressed too! With school back in full swing you may be dealing with some emotional ups and downs at home. The school year brings back hectic schedules, deadlines, and pressures to excel and social challenges. Perhaps your child did not get the teacher you had hoped for. The added stressors can result in your child experiencing moments of anxiety, irritability, mood fluctuations and sleep disturbances.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns for children and adults. This effect has an upward of 20% of children and adolescents over their lifespan.

Unfortunately, studies show that when children are exposed to stressful situations and prolonged anxiety, the stress can impair early learning and adversely effects later in school performance. This study shows that if children produce too much cortisol; a hormone our bodies secrete in response to stress, it impairs memory and learning. So how do you know if your child is suffering form anxiety?

Signs your child may be suffering from anxiety are:

Physical feelings:

  1. Fidgety, amped up and/or unable to sit still

  2. Irritable

  3. Tired

  4. Muscle pains (often in the neck and shoulders)

  5. Headaches

  6. Stomach aches


  1. School absenteeism

  2. Refusing to attend school field trips

  3. Inability to make and maintain friendships due to fears

  4. Less involved in activities and limited interests

  5. Unusual or overly focused interests often related to areas of worry

  6. Frequent checking about current affairs, becoming an expert on identifying diseases, etc.

  7. Tantrums

  8. Snapping at others

  9. Difficulty paying attention or concentrating

  10. Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or disturbed/interrupted sleep

  11. Excessive studying

  12. Reassurance seeking

  13. Excessive or unreasonable list making

  14. Procrastinating

  15. Refusal to go to school

Sourced from Anxiety Canada

If you have identified that your child may have some of these signs of anxiety, here are some suggestions on what you can do to support them.:

  1. Ensure that your child is getting the fundamentals – Adequate sleep (9-10 hours), a well balanced diet low in sugar and processed foods in order to balance blood sugar levels, and regular exercise.

  2. Test for deficiencies – You may want to have your ND or MD check your child’s iron, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D levels. Low levels of these nutrients can result in fatigue and mood changes. Your child may get overwhelmed easily and struggle to keep up with their peers. Iron levels can particularly be affected in girls once they begin to menstruate. Vitamin D levels seem to be low in most children that I screen. According to Stats Canada 40% of Canadians have Vitamin D levels below the cut off of 50 nmol/L. Living in Canada means that the whole family needs to supplement daily from fall until spring!

  3. Some acute remedies may help your child manage their symptoms and keep them under control such as L-Theanine chews, or milk peptide supplements. These can be especially helpful to ward off panic attacks or to occasionally help with sleep. If your child is very active or plays competitive sports consider regular Epsom Salt baths as a way to replenish much needed magnesium to promote relaxation and a deep, restful sleep.

  4. Consider CBT – Cognitive behavoural therapy can give your child the tools they need to cope with the many stressors that life can bring.

Some good reading with tips to help you support and understand your child are:

  1. Helping your Anxious Childby Ronald Rapee PhD, Ann Wignall, Susan Spence, PhD

  2. The Happy Kid Handbook – Katie Hurley, LCSW

  3. Between Parent And Child – Dr Haim G Ginott

  4. Yoga and breathing exercises can address the shallow breathing that accompanies anxiety and helps to turn off their sympathetic nervous system (which is part of our flight or flight stress response). Focusing on breathing or holding a pose can also distract your child from what they are worrying about. Start with a few simple poses or check out Today’s Parent cute yoga poses for kids – they all have animal names! If you have a teen at home consider signing them up for a weekly class at your local yoga studio. This study shows the benefits of yoga on children’s well being.

All children experience fears during childhood, including fear of the dark, monsters, and strangers. These fears are normal aspects of development and are temporary in nature. But if your child seems to experience anxiety more intensely than their peers or f it is stopping him or her from participating in typical childhood experiences seek out support from your doctor or naturopath.

Note: This is also a stressful time of year for parents as well! Follow all of the above tips to support your own mental well-being as well!

What’s Next?

Learn more about Dr. Marika Berni and book a complimentary 15 minute consultation to see how she can help you deal with back to school stress!

Book an appointment online. Contact us: 416.214.9251,


Please note that content on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, not is it meant to diagnose or treat a health problem, symptom or disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Information provided on this website DOES NOT create a doctor-patient relationship between you and any doctor affiliated with our website

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