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Back to School Anxieties: Helping Your Child Cope

Aug 10 2022

When the summer days dwindle down and the school year looms, it’s not unusual for kids to feel some amount of anxiety and stress. However, if you child’s separation and social anxiety is starting to become an issue, here are several tips to help you help your child feel more prepared for the upcoming school year.

Why is your kid nervous to go back to school?

Whenever a new situation is coming up in life, it’s not unusual for the nerves to set in. With the new school year, kids face a new classroom, a new teacher, new classmates and other unknowns that may make them worry. Not knowing exactly what to expect causes discomfort for many people, kids included.

Many schools offer a chance for students to see their new classroom and meet their new teachers ahead of time, so be sure to take advantage of those opportunities. Also try to discuss anything that’s new and unfamiliar with your child so they have a chance to talk things out.

Helping your child deal with their anxiety

The first steps in dealing with anxiety are to recognize the signs. Kids will often feel these uncomfortable feelings, but they don’t know how to express their feelings in words. So instead, they act out their negative feelings.

Watch for signs such as:

  • Unusual clinginess
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained crying
  • Restlessness and fidgeting
  • Getting upset and angry more often
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Complaints of stomach aches or headaches

If you notice these signs, act quickly to deal with the anxiety.

Encourage your child to talk about uncomfortable feelings. Listen carefully to what your child tells you, and don’t judge. Often, just the chance to talk about nervousness about the first day of school can help kids feel better.

Also, be sure to show a positive attitude about the upcoming school year. Go back-to-school shopping for new clothes, shoes and school supplies with them. Plan school lunches with your child. Set up a spot in your house for homework with all the materials your child will need. Talk about the fun things to look forward to in school like seeing old friends, playing on the playground at recess time, going to art class and visiting the school library.

And most importantly, a couple of weeks before the first day of school, change your child’s daily schedule. Go back to an earlier bedtime and wake your child up in the morning around the time necessary to get up for school. This should help make the adjustment of going back to school easier for them.

And what about social anxiety?

Your child’s back-to-school nerves might be tied to being uncomfortable with socializing. What may look like simple shyness can actually be more if feelings of anxiety and fear set in during specific social situations.

Social anxiety may involve difficulty with:

  • Going to parties
  • Speaking in public
  • Walking into rooms
  • Talking to strangers
  • Starting conversations
  • Eating with other people
  • Making eye contact with others

It’s common for people with social anxiety to be afraid of being watched and judged by others, of being embarrassed and of being the center of attention. It may help for your child to talk about these uncomfortable feelings. Reassure your child that everyone feels this kind of social nervousness sometimes.

If your child’s anxiety becomes more than you can handle on your own, it’s probably time to talk to their pediatrician about seeing a mental health specialist.

Learn about the behavioral and mental health services we provide at Bon Secours.

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