How to help kids cope with back-to-school anxiety

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 11:16 AM MST
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(CNN) - It is that time of the year again, and heading back to the classroom may bring up a lot of different feelings.

”Even if your kid is excited about going back to school, it’s OK and completely normal if all of a sudden they start to feel anxiety,” said Jody Baumstein, licensed therapist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life.

Baumstein said back-to-school anxiety can look different in every child, but some common signs to look out for are frequent worrying about school, trouble concentrating, or frequent headaches or stomach aches with no known medical cause.

A child may also show changes in eating or sleeping habits, clinginess to caregivers, changes in mood, and sweating, shaking or fast-breathing when thinking about school, or not taking part in activities they normally enjoy.

”Anxiety can come from fear of the unknown, so for some kids, what’s going to be most helpful is just really familiarizing them with certain things related to going to school,” Baumstein said.

Parents can help by going to the school’s open house or by visiting the school before the first day. Other things that can help are driving the bus route or drop-off route with your child so they know what to expect, encouraging your child to practice with things they will be using on their own like lunch containers or backpacks and meeting up with other kids who go to the school so there are familiar faces.

”Anything you can do to prepare ahead of time is going to put their mind at ease and make them a little more comfortable on day one,” Baumstein said.

Feelings about school may change day to day, so Baumstein says that it is important to set a regular routine where parents check in with their children and ask open-ended questions to see how they are feeling.

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