Mom’s Battle with Back-to-School Anxiety

It was one of those kinds of nights. I tossed and turned, looking at the clock each time I raised my head. I wanted to be sure I didn’t oversleep the morning my oldest child ventured out of our home to begin middle school.

And through the night, I battled numerous fears in my mind. What if the kids are mean to her? What if she has no one to sit with at lunch? What if she gets on the wrong bus home? Would it be too uncool to walk her to the bus stop? Can I still give her a hug goodbye in front of the other kids?

But when the alarm finally went off, and I went downstairs to ensure she ate a good breakfast, I found her completely ready for the day. Lunch was packed, breakfast eaten, backpack waiting by the door. My little girl is becoming a young, independent woman. And she didn’t seem half as worried as her mom when we headed out the door.

Schooling Decisions

Schooling decisions do not come easily in our house. With our three oldest children, we have tried Christian school, homeschooling, and public schooling. Our ever-changing philosophy and the differing personalities of our children have caused us to evaluate what is the best option for each child, which until this year, has meant different schooling methods for different kids.

However our choice this year to put our oldest child in public middle school came by surprise. She had been in Christian school three years and homeschooled for four. Yet there were various signs of her needing a change — from boredom and loneliness to a desire for more extra-curricular opportunities, to needing to belong to a community of kids her own age. I had said I would never put my child into public schools during the middle school years. Never say never, I guess.

The temptation I have faced with this decision is to think of all the bad situations that could possibly happen and dwell on them. All the what-if scenarios can loom like giants in my mind.

Walking in Faith, Not Fear

A few weeks ago, I was sharing all my fears with my husband when he gave me a gentle rebuke. “This is an exciting time in her life. We need to not be living in fear, but be eagerly anticipating what God has planned for her.” It was true. We had prayed about this decision for a long time. We had toured schools and talked with administrators and other parents. We had sought godly counsel. This was the decision we came to, and I needed to be at peace with it.

The school years shouldn’t be looked at as a dreadful encounter with adolescent life, but an exciting time of discovering God’s plan for our children. I needed to be excited for her and the young woman she is becoming, not living in fear of all the what-if situations. My husband’s words convicted me of not trusting the decision that God had led us to make. And he caused me to re-evaluate how I should be thinking in this new season of life. For all you moms who might be tempted to fret over your schooling decision for this year, here are a few points to consider with me.

1. Seek to Have Contagious Excitement

The way we are dealing with our own anxiety about the school year will be easily absorbed by our children. If we demonstrate a hopeful anticipation about the new school year, speaking of new friends they will make or interesting classes they will have, our kids will most likely be inclined the same way. But if we’re vocal about our fears and doubts, such as questioning the capability of a teacher or the ungodly influences of certain kids, we will be instilling those same fears and doubts in their own hearts and minds.

Our attitudes about schooling are passed to our kids as easily as our gene pool.

2. Let Go and Trust God

Parenting is a process of letting go, little by little, as our children get older. Part of what made this decision so difficult for me was letting go of things that I felt like I had control over. Our daughter would no longer be in my presence the majority of time. I won’t know who is in her classes or what is happening on the bus. But God had led us to this decision and was calling me to trust him with all the unknowns.

Could I trust God to protect her when I wasn’t there? Could I trust him to provide a friend for her at the lunch table?

3. Pray Hard and Seek to Be at Peace

Like any big decision in life, choosing the right schooling method requires ample time spent in prayer. When you have searched the Scriptures for wisdom, prayed diligently and sought godly counsel, you have good cause to be at peace with the decision made. Worrying will profit nothing. Jesus himself said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).

Grace Enough for Mom Too

Throughout the first day of middle school, I kept looking at my clock, figuring out what class my daughter would be in and sending up prayers to God. The fears still lingered, but as I felt myself let go and trust God, I was able to be at peace as I waited for the midafternoon school bus. And as I walked down the street to pick up my other two children at our neighborhood school, I caught a glimpse of my curly blond-haired middle schooler, coming up the hill with our neighbor, smiling and laughing.

“How was your day?” I eagerly asked. “It was good, Mom. Really good.”

We’re grateful for a good first day. And we’ll continue to trust God even on the difficult days. He is more than able to handle the middle school years and a mother’s battle with anxiety.