Many children look forward to heading back to school, but an expert in child psychology notes that the new school year can cause anxiety for some kids.
The start of the school year may be especially stressful for some children in a transition year, such as going into kindergarten, into middle school or to a new school, according to Rachel Busman. She’s a senior clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City.
Children can also become stressed due to a change in their social support system, such as if a good friend has moved away or if they have a new teacher.
“For most kids, the new-school-year worries will dissipate and the anxious behaviors will be temporary. The goal for their parents is to be supportive without amplifying their child’s worries,” Busman said in an institute news release.
However, she added, “Other kids have severe forms of anxiety that will require a more proactive approach.”
If you think your child will be extremely nervous on the first day, visit the school several times before school starts. Help your child navigate the halls, and locate key areas: the child’s classroom, bathrooms, the cafeteria and the playground, Busman suggested.
If you think your child will require extra support, ask your child’s teacher, the school psychologist or the school nurse to watch your child for any signs they might need added help.
If needed, have someone from the school meet your child once you arrive at school. Ask them to engage your child in an activity that will take his or her mind off anxious feelings, Busman said.
It’s also important for parents to control their own stress so they don’t pass it on to their children, Busman noted.
“The most important thing a parent can do when kids resist going [to school] is to continue sending them to school anyway,” she said. “This can be very difficult, but allowing children to avoid situations that make them anxious can inadvertently reinforce that those situations are indeed dangerous or scary.”
Learn what to do about “school refusal” from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
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