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Anxiety Often Accompanies New School Year

It doesn't matter if he or she is an apprehensive kindergartner or an uneasy high school student, it's important to listen to and respond to your child's questions about the new school year, says one expert. (Alexander Stein/Pixabay)
It doesn't matter if he or she is an apprehensive kindergartner or an uneasy high school student, it's important to listen to and respond to your child's questions about the new school year, says one expert. (Alexander Stein/Pixabay)
August 28, 2017

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The school year is under way again, and that can trigger anxiety – especially among younger children.

But there are things you can do to help minimize your child's concerns, according to Dr. Marcia Slattery, a child psychiatrist and director of the University of Wisconsin's Health Anxiety Disorder Program.

She says 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, 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?'” she explains. “So, more questions, more seeking information."

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 says visiting the school with your child before the start of the school year can help reduce his or her concerns about unknowns.

Slattery says 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,” she states. “But having some of the apprehension and the anxiety before the start of school is very normal."

According to Slattery, it's important to listen to 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,’” she says. “’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."

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




Veronica Carter/Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - MO