Change brings anxiety for many people. For children, a new school year means one transition after another. Whether they’re attending school for the first time or returning for another year, they’re exposed to new people, rules and routines. Even the most laid-back children may withdraw, drag their feet or become more clingy when faced with change – change they have no control over. Parents might wonder if their anxiety level is normal or if it indicates more than just a case of nerves.
Here are some tips for helping your child ease into the new school year, and for knowing when their anxiety might indicate something more serious.
Identify Normal Worries
Anxiety is a part of childhood, but kids don’t always know it’s normal. In fact, just the process of naming their fears can help put those anxieties into perspective. Talk to your child to find out what’s causing their worry. Many kids fear the following:
- Not knowing anyone in their class
- Getting a new teacher
- Not understanding the rules and getting in trouble for it
- Having to sit alone at lunch
- Being late to class or missing the bus
- Academic struggles that lead to failing grades
- Being made fun of or looking stupid
Once your child identifies his or her fears, don’t dismiss them. Instead, look at each worst-case scenario and come up with some ideas to resolve them if they happen. Once your child comes up with solutions, role-play to try them out. Playfully be the unfamiliar teacher or new classmate, and allow your child to talk through the situation.
When It’s More Than Just Nerves
Sometimes parents feel their child’s anxiety is more serious than just back to school jitters. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common types of mental health conditions. They can have many different symptoms, but all of them lead to anxiety that seems out of proportion with what’s going on. If your child struggles with excessive worry for long periods of time, has trouble sleeping or concentrating because of worry, or seems restless and irritable, talk to your pediatrician. Anxiety disorders are treatable, and treatment can help your child cope. If you suspect an anxiety disorder, contact Green Hills Pediatric Associates today.