Helping your child deal with back to school anxiety

Updated: Aug. 11, 2019 at 9:10 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Ready or not, school is back in session this week. For some kids, this is exciting, but the idea may make others scared or anxious.

Dr. Esther Schwartz is a health psychologist at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She said children can vary a lot in their excitement or apprehension about school, and that is totally normal.

“Part of how you prepare them for school is informing them of what the schedule’s going to be, so they know what to expect,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said a little nervousness before going back to school can be expected, but there are signs you can look for in your child if you suspect that nervousness is turning into anxiety.

“When we’re scared or not feeling really well, we tend to avoid, and we tend to withdraw,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said sometimes children will have a physical complaint connected to anxiety.

“They’ll complain about tummy aches or headaches,” Schwartz said.

Another mental health concern that can arise in children at school is stress. But, Schwartz said there are four pillars of health that, when applied, can combat it: Relaxation, exercise, good nutrition and sleep.

“If one of those goes awry, it really affects all of them,” Schwartz said.

She said for children and teens, rest, relaxation and play are very important.

“Beyond just telling children to relax and making sure they get enough rest, showing them by doing things together as a family,” Schwartz said.

Such as having a game night, eating dinner together or going for a walk.

Schwartz also said mindfulness skills can help your child notice what’s going on inside of and around them.

“Breathing and noticing your breath, they can take the form of noting what kind of thoughts you’re having in the moment, what kinds of feeling are coming up in the moment,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said as they get more skilled at knowing what’s happening with them, they’ll be able to make better choices.

She said if you feel like anxiety is getting the best of your child, talk to your pediatrician or a school counselor.

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