Getting back to school can be stressful for parents and their children, with some kids experiencing anxiety, mood swings, or behavioral problems. These five methods will help you manage your child’s emotions and behavior and allow them to flourish.
With the summer break ending and the school year beginning, children face anxiety and stress associated with transitioning back to school. These behavioral and emotional symptoms can last longer than a couple of days or weeks for some students. For some children, a consultation with a child psychologist may be a good idea, according to Chiappini.
“The transition back to class as summer ends can be a stressful time for children and parents alike. But anxiety symptoms that persist beyond the first few weeks of school and that seem excessive may require consultation with an expert,” says Johns Hopkins Children’s Center psychologist Erika Chiappini. Chiappini specializes in treating childhood anxiety and related disorders at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
Children may exhibit emotional behaviors such as nervousness due to new routines, and impending schoolwork or social interactions, according to Chiappini. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, keep an eye on them to see if symptoms get better over time. While some of these behaviors are normal for many students, known as the back-to-school jitters, they should gradually disappear over the next few weeks, according to Chiappini.
“Parents or caregivers may notice their children exhibiting some nervousness about new routines, schoolwork, or social interactions,” said Chiappini.
“Some of this is a normal part of back-to-school jitters that gradually diminish over a few weeks.“
What Are The Symptoms Of Back-To-School Anxiety?
There are many ways to tell if your child has problems. Chiappini refers to this as red flags. According to Chiappini, red flags to be aware of that could be causing immense distress include:
- Tantrums when separating from parents or caregivers to attend school
- Difficulty getting along with family members or friends
- Avoidance of normal activities in and outside of school
- Symptoms such as stomachaches, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping alone
How Do I Ease My Child’s Back-To-School Anxiety?
- A week or two before school, start preparing children for the upcoming transition by resuming school-year routines, such as setting a realistic bedtime and selecting clothes. Preparedness can ease anxiety for both the parent and child.
- Set up playdates with one or more familiar neighbors, friends or classmates before school starts. Research shows children interacting with their peers during school transitions can improve academic and emotional adjustment.
- Visit the school before the school year begins, rehearse the drop-off and spend time on the playground or inside the classroom if the building is open. Have your child practice walking into class while you wait outside or down the hall.
- Come up with a prize or a rewarding activity that the child could earn for separating from mom or dad to attend school.
- Acknowledge your child’s anxiety and tell them that you understand what they are going through. Getting back into school can be difficult, but once your child has a routine, reassure them that going to school will become fun and easy.
When Should I Get Professional Help For My Child’s Back-To-School Anxiety?
“If after the first month or so, your child continues to show distress around school that is not improving or if the child’s symptoms are worsening, it may be time to seek an evaluation from a psychologist or psychiatrist,” Chiappini advises.
When problems become severe, consulting a mental health professional can ease the distress, bring understanding to your child’s symptoms, and help solve them.
“There are several ways to address anxiety, such as with a particular type of therapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches the child and parent skills to address and confront anxiety,” Chiappini explains.
If CBT and other therapies are insufficient, a therapist may recommend medication for your child to help them to adjust to the situation.
“Medication, alone or in combination with therapy, is another option that can help to improve symptoms of anxiety and get kids back to their regular activities,” said Chiappini.