THURSDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- For kids, the end of
summer means an abrupt end to staying up late and sleeping until
noon: It also signals the beginning of brand new challenges and
perhaps a case of the back-to-school jitters.
Whether your child is a preschooler or a teen, some anxiety
about the first day of school is normal. The trick for parents is
to know how to ease your children's stress and manage your own
expectations for the year ahead, experts said.
Parents shouldn't overact, even if kids have a rocky transition.
"Children have to deal with these uncomfortable feelings," said
Christine Kodman-Jones, a clinical psychologist in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
"It's scary, but if they still do it and follow through, that shows
real strength and resiliency."
The major shift in routine, as well as the fear of the unknown,
is enough to make children feel nervous about the first day of
school, said Ted Feinberg, former assistant executive director of
the National Association of School Psychologists.
Their worries can range from concerns about who their teacher
will be to whether or not they will be smart enough to do well.
Younger children and preschoolers might have separation anxiety
when it's time to leave their parents or worry about riding the bus
or being able to find the bathroom, said Kodman-Jones.
Kodman-Jones recommended that parents take the following steps
to help children cope with this anxiety:
Parents need to manage their own anxiety as well. "Parents need
to be calm and supportive. Their confidence is key for children --
especially those who tend to be worriers," said Kodman-Jones.
"Children look to their parents for stability and take that anxiety
Parents should also realize they are not alone. Teachers are
there to help ease the transition. "I want school, and my classroom
especially, to be a 'safe place,'" said Deborah Gsell, who teaches
fourth grade in Oak Ridge, N.C.
"As we get to know our students in the first few days and weeks and greet each child each day, it becomes almost second nature to be able to determine who is on the right track for the day and who might have an issue," said Gsell.
A child's fears may not disappear overnight, said Feinberg, who
worked in upstate New York schools as a school psychologist for 32
years. "There is no one-shot deal in any aspect of life. Patterns
take time to establish and be broken down," he said.
Overall, back-to-school school anxiety should fade away after
the first month, said Kodman-Jones. However, children who show
certain symptoms, such as trouble sleeping or recurrent stomach
aches, may need some extra help adjusting from their teacher or a
school counselor, she said. Other signs of trouble include bad
dreams, loss of appetite or unusually stubborn or demanding
behavior, she said.
Teens switching high schools or packing for college can also
suffer from anxiety. "Will I fit in?" or "Are my clothes right?"
are typical concerns, but continued homesickness or a sudden
inability to focus could signal a more serious problem.
"Parents can encourage these older adolescents, letting them know how they as parents overcame their homesickness or inability to concentrate and letting them know they have faith in the first-year student's ability to do well in his or her new environment," Samuel T. Gladding, a professor of counseling at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a university news release.
Joining school activities often helps to ease the transition for
undergrads. "Parents can also work with student life personnel,
such as resident assistants, to help their college student find
enjoyable activities such as outdoor clubs or singing groups," said
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more
back-to-school tips for parents.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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