Dealing With Back-To-School Anxiety

Posted on: August 10th, 2016 by The MidAmerican Psychological Institute

The new school year brings the prospect and excitement of change. New teachers, new expectations, new friends, new sports seasons… and even brand new school supplies make the this time of year highly anticipated by many. However, change can be scary to youngsters, and the anxiety about changes can be very difficult to handle. Each child and teenager handles the Back-to-School Days differently, and sometimes with great fear.

The anxiety that comes along with change is quite natural, and it can even be a good experience for youngsters to learn from. Changes happen all the time, and new experiences should be met head-on. Learning to deal with change helps children grow into mature adults.

But keep in mind, kids today experience so many changes at a rapid rate, and these changes are happening when the youngster’s brain and social abilities are growing and developing. During these years, a child’s view of the world changes from a concrete way of thinking to more abstract thinking. This means they begin to see things outside of themselves and their own world, and look at the “bigger picture.”   This can be daunting.

Responsible parents, guardians, and teachers should be on the look out for how youngsters are handling the changes. Some signs of anxiety are obvious, such as voicing their nervousness and overtly attempting to get out of going to school. And in addition, caregivers should observe if children are displaying the following signs of anxiety:

  • Avoidance of social activities
  • Complaining of headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue
  • Being overly critical of themselves or the new environment
  • Seeking a great deal of approval from adults
  • Irritability and sleep problems

Some well-meaning guardians actually allow the children to take a few days off from school, avoid the challenges, or attend school with the child… but usually that backfires and makes the problem worse because they child isn’t really learning any new skills. On the other hand, sometimes caregivers tell kids to “suck it up,” or “get to school, or else…” or “just get over it.” These methods of threatening or intimidating might work in the short-run for some kids, but it is not sending a nurturing, healthy message, and also might make the anxiety problem worse.

Children and teens learn much more when they hear encouragement and reason. Reassuring youngsters that support is available is much more helpful. Reach out to the school officials, pupil personal services in the school district, and the guidance counselors in high school to help with the transition. These professionals have been trained to handle these issues, and will likely have some helpful solutions for each individual situation.

And sometimes the anxiety is substantial. If your child is showing signs of school refusal or significant emotional reactions to the new school challenges, talk to your school officials, pediatrician, or local behavioral health professionals. School anxiety can be successfully treated, and has better outcomes when addressed early.

Back-to-School is a rite of passage. It is an important transition time for youngsters to learn from, so make sure you have the assistance from people to help your child make the transition. The steps you take to assist your child at this time can make a substantial impact on how your child handles stress and change throughout the rest of life.

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