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New School Year Can Be Stressful

Back-to-school time isn't fun for every child. Some feel a lot of anxiety. (Cassie Myers)
Back-to-school time isn't fun for every child. Some feel a lot of anxiety. (Cassie Myers)
August 17, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Another school year is getting under way, and that can trigger some anxiety among younger students.

There are things you can do to help minimize your child's concerns, according to Dr. Marcia Slattery, director of the University of Wisconsin Health's Anxiety Disorder Program. She said you'll likely notice that younger school-age children may become more irritable as the onset of school approaches.

"The grade-school kids definitely start asking more,” Slattery said. "They start wanting to have detail about what's going to happen, basically trying to say, 'What are the unknowns that I need to know about?' So, more questions, more seeking information."

Dr. Slattery works with parents and children who have serious anxiety problems, helping them practice being in situations that make them apprehensive and learn to control their anxiety in those situations. She said visiting the school with your child before the start of the school year can help reduce their concerns about unknowns.

She said having anxiety about being in a new school or a new grade with new students is nothing to be overly concerned about. All children will have some anxiety about any kind of change.

"I think it becomes more of an issue if it's really more of an underlying anxiety problem for the child - if the anxiety persists despite getting back into the school and getting into the routine, et cetera,” Slattery explained. "But having some of the apprehension and the anxiety before the start of school is very normal."

According to Dr. Slattery, it's important to listen and respond to your child's questions about the upcoming school year.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we often want to make is saying, 'Don't worry about it, it's nothing to worry about. It's going to be fine.' That in essence is telling the kid, well, you're really not listening and you don't want to hear about it, and they'll stop talking about it,” she said.

If you suspect your child may have a real problem with anxiety, she said the first step is to talk with your pediatrician, who can help you figure out the next best steps for your child and the family.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - FL