Helping students deal with back to school anxiety

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 4:09 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Kids will soon be walking through the halls of school again, and now is the time to prepare them.

Dr. Valerie Johnson, clinical psychologist at Covenant, says parents can start easing those nerves up to a week ahead of the first day of school.

“Start getting back into those normal routines, setting that regular bedtime, laying out their clothes for the next day, getting up and eating breakfast, putting on their clothes,” Dr. Johnson said.

She says it’s not only routine that can calm the nerves, you can rehearse how to make friends with your kids.

“A lot of kids are nervous about making new friends, especially if they’re going to a new school,” Dr. Johnson said. “So, role playing with your kids, you know, ‘My name is such and such, what’s your name? What do you like to do for fun?’”

It’s not only students that feel the first day jitters, their parents may feel nervous when they drop them off.

“A lot of times what we see is the parents being anxious themselves and that increases the child anxiety,” MD Dr. Aztik Joshi from the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, said. “So, first to be in a normal mental state themselves and then talk to the child about the doctor.”

Dr. Joshi says kids could be getting bullied at school, or not understanding the material they are covering in class. He says both of these things could create anxiety.

On top of that, Dr. Johnson says kids could be feeling nervous about COVID-19. She says being open to talking and listening is sometimes the best thing.

“Review some of the ways and the procedures that the school is, the steps they are taking to keep kids safe, the procedures, and maybe even finding out more about these things to share with your kiddos,” Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson recommends not talking to your kids about your anxiety because it could stress them out more, instead she says you can help your kids by showing them how to cope.

“Talk to them about problem solving, practicing good self-care, and just modeling those things,” Dr. Johnson said.

Common signs Dr. Johnson says to look our for are headaches, stomachaches, eating less, and not wanting to go to school.

Dr. Joshi says the physical pain is more common in younger aged students and as they get older not wanting to go to school usually stems from issues with their peers. He says the nerves should ease up.

“Now, most commonly this anxiety tends to resolve with time, that’s what we see, but if it sticks around for longer than usual, then it’s time to get help,” Dr. Joshi said.

He says the anxiety should let up the more they go to school. If it doesn’t resolve within a month, Dr. Joshi recommends seeking professional help.

“Taking it one day at a time, and one foot after another, and just be supportive of the kids, and it’s going to be okay,” Dr. Joshi said.

Dr. Johnson says to normalize that everyone of all ages face anxiety and if needed consider looking in to buying some anxiety workbooks.

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