Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

Back to School Blues

Dear Ilana and Jess: My kids dread the start of the year every September, even though ultimately both of them enjoy school. How can I help lower their anxiety? – Teri

Dear Teri: Back to School Blues are pretty common, but that doesn’t make them any easier. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to help alleviate some of that stress.

Have your kids make a list of things they’re looking forward to next week, next month, and even next season. List items should be school-specific in some way; for example, a homecoming game or dance, a classroom Halloween party, reuniting with friends or a favorite teacher, etc. Focusing on all the good that is to come will help the kids remember what it is they enjoy and appreciate about school.

Make sure everyone is prepared. If you aren’t doing so already, create and implement a routine to organize your kids for the first week of school. For example, back-to-school shopping should be a fun ritual, but give your kids responsibility by having them print or write the items they need and check off the list as they go. The more in-control the kids feel, the more prepared they’ll feel, and, in turn, the less anxious they’ll be. Keep backpacks and school materials in a consistent location, and have the kids pack and check their bags the night before. Lunches should also be planned in advance.

Watch their language. While, “I hate school,” may seem innocuous and common, comments like that actually affect the way the kids think about and experience school. Give them the language to say what they really mean. For example, “I hate school,” can become, “I’m really nervous about going back to school.”

Finally, if you’re ever concerned about your child’s anxiety, consider seeking the support of a mental health professional.

Say This: “Instead of saying that you hate school, which I know you don’t, I want you to tell me what’s really bothering you. Try this: ‘I’m really nervous about going back to school.’”

Not That: “What are you worried about? Everything will be fine!”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: