The transition into a new school year can be a time of excitement —and stress. Children and teens can become anxious, irritable or depressed by this major change. The trick to fighting back-to-school anxiety is to start preparing well ahead of the first day of school. Here’s how.
Kindergarten Through Fifth Grade: Kids Need to Talk
- Chat about it. Talk with your elementary-age children about their excitement, stressing the benefits (seeing their friends, playing sports, etc.).
- Give them some control. Be firm that they do have to go to school, but give them control over some simple choices, such as buying or bringing lunch, riding the bus or riding their bike to school, etc.
- Know when to seek help. It is normal for younger children, especially preschoolers, to be anxious about school and separating from their parents. Separation anxiety is your child’s way of showing that they don’t want to say goodbye to Mom or Dad! For most, these fears resolve quickly as the child adjusts to school. However, when anxiety about school causes a child significant distress, intervention may be needed. Talk with your child’s doctor if you have ongoing concerns. Some families find meditation or mindfulness exercises to be helpful in reducing their child’s anxiety.
Teens Want You to Listen
- Keep communication lines open. Teens want you to listen to their back-to-school concerns without being judgmental. Do everything possible to keep the lines of communication open at this critical age.
- Look for patterns. A wild new hairdo? No problem. Purple hair and worrisome new friends and a big drop in grades? It’s time to sit down and have a serious talk. If you are concerned for your child’s welfare, talk with his or her doctor about what steps to take.
If your child’s doctor recommends a multivitamin, choose one that is designed for your child’s age group and doesn’t provide more than 100 percent of the Daily Value of vitamins and minerals. Keep multivitamins out of your child’s reach and make it clear that they aren’t candy.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; West Virginia University