Children and back-to-school anxiety

Summer break is winding down as most area schools resume classes. Unfortunately, for many parents, this can mean signs of anxiety start to surface for their child. How can you determine if your student is experiencing some back-to-school nerves or anxiety? How can you best help them? Our Parkview Certified Child Life Specialists are here to help.

Signs of anxiety

Anxiety can present in many different ways in children, and may not always be easy to detect. Typically, signs of anxiety become more consistent and occur more often the longer the child experiences it.

Some signs of anxiety include:

  • Crying
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Meltdowns about anything
  • Avoidance
  • Tantrums
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Poor focus
  • Difficulty transitioning to a new daily schedule or from one task/part of their day to the next

Your child might start saying they don’t feel well when it’s time to get ready for school, or they might ask you to take them to school instead of riding the bus. Their grades could become affected because they are having difficulty coping with the anxiety of being focused on, being called on or getting an answer wrong. For some children, what might appear as a lack of knowledge or retention of information, is actually anxiety.

Addressing anxiety

If you suspect anxiety, the next question becomes how do you find out what is causing your child to feel this way? Talk to them. Ask them questions, but don’t pry or push for answers. Letting your child know you are there for them to talk to, when they are ready, is the first step.

The next step is waiting for them to be ready to talk. Maybe they have a fear of something happening or they witnessed something that scares them. There is typically an underlying cause for the anxiety, but figuring out that cause isn’t always an easy task. The best thing to do is stay calm, support the child and continue normal, open conversations.

Asking them about their day each and every day can help you figure out what is causing the anxiety as well. By hearing about their day and asking them for more details, you may notice something that sounds off or triggers/events that always happen before they are anxious.

If you aren’t having any luck, consider connecting with your child’s school counselor, teacher or parents of their friends. Sometimes, talking to others can help as well, especially those who know your child pretty well. You can even talk to your child’s doctor about it. They might have some suggestions for working through the issue.

Dealing with anxiety in children isn’t easy, and it can be stressful for parents. But you don’t have to do it alone. Lean on those around you and around your child for support and advice.

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