The Psychological Society of Ireland



The Psychological Society of Ireland,
Floor 2, Grantham House,
Grantham Street, Dublin 8, D08 W8HD.


Press release issued on Tuesday 25/08/2015

Beat the back to school anxieties – advice for young people and parents


Heading back to school can be an anxious time for students and parents alike. Some students will look forward to the routine and having structure to their week again, along with getting to see their friends every day. However, anxieties about study, fitting in and bullying are concerns a lot of young people can have about starting, or returning, to school.

School is a different experience for everyone, so the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) and ReachOut Ireland have put some tips together for students and parents to help.

Advice for young people

  • Being active and exercising can help to improve mood, decrease anxiety and ensure a good night’s sleep. Going out for a big walk, run or cycle the day before school starts will assist with sleep the night before school, typically a time when anxiety can increase.
  • Set some goals this year in school. These goals can be to do with school or outside of the class, like taking up an instrument or a new sport. Having your focus on something and working towards a personal goal will help your self-esteem.
  • Taking part and joining sports clubs or other extra-curricular activities allows you to get to know people outside your class so can help with feeling less anxious and fitting in.
  • Worries about fitting in, about making friends and being concerned about what people might think about you are normal. Remember, you are not alone feeling like that and you would be surprised how many people feel the same. Give yourself time, be patient with yourself. Try to resist the temptation to avoid social opportunities.
  • Moving from primary to secondary school is a big jump for most young people. Going from one classroom with the one teacher to 11 classes and 11 teachers is a lot to take on board. Use visual supports, like a map of the school and timetables to help you plan what you need to do and where you need to be. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Advice for parents

  • Going back to school can be as anxiety provoking for a parent as much as a student. When talking to your son or daughter about school use reassurance sparingly. Too much reassurance will prevent them from learning to reassure themselves.
  • Acknowledge and understand their anxiety, try not to dismiss it. Listen and empathise. Don’t support the option of avoiding school.
  • Bear in mind the following advice that the PSI and ReachOut received from their work with young people. These young people said they would give this advice to their friends and other children/ teenagers:
    • "If you're panicking walking through the gates of the school or front door, take a minute and remember to breathe, it really helps with feeling calm again";
    • "Talk to someone about how you're feeling so you don't just keep it in your head and end up over thinking it";
    • "Try to talk to someone who is likely to understand how you might be feeling".

If you’re starting back at school

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. It's normal to feel anxious about new things. You're not alone. Try not to avoid new opportunities.
  • Friends or family members, school counsellors or year heads will want to try to help, so do talk to them if you’re becoming overly anxious.
  • If feelings of anxiety last longer than expected and a student starts to miss school, discuss additional support options with your GP.


For more information see and



  • The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) is the learned and professional body for the profession in the Republic of Ireland, with the primary object of advancing psychology as a pure and applied science in Ireland and elsewhere. The Society has grown significantly since its inception and now has over 2,500 members.
  • ReachOut Ireland was incorporated in Ireland in 2009 to deliver the youth mental health service The service model was developed originally in Australia as the world’s first online mental health service. Since launching in Ireland, has helped thousands of young people get support through tough times, by providing quality information about mental health, self-help, coping skills and explanations of what different services provide.

Media coverage:
  • Mark Smyth, PSI member and Society spokesperson for the press release, was interview live on Cork's 96FM on 26/08/15;
  • Mark was also interviewed on KCLR 96FM on 28/08/15. To listen to the broadcast please click here. Mark's interview is approximately 13 minutes into the piece;
  • Vincent McDarby, PSI member, was interviewed for an article that appeared in Irish Counrty Living. To view the article please click here or select the file in the Downloads section to the left of here;
  • Naoise Kavanagh, ReachOut Ireland, was interviewed on Spin SouthWest.

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