With the new school year starting, back to school jitters in adolescents can be a very normal occurrence. Whether it’s mean teachers, hard academic work, or worries of getting lost in the big school that make your child a little on edge, it doesn’t make for abnormal fears. Even physical symptoms like upset stomachs can be part of the back to school routine. But for some, these worries can build and heading back to school can call for prolonged and problematic anxiety throughout the year in children, and can often times signal something more severe, such as a school phobia.
Even as children with anxiety grow more accustomed to a routine, their teachers, peers and school work, it’s important to remember that these familiar areas can also be the source cause of stress. Signs and symptoms they may show range anywhere from shaking, sweating, tantrums, and avoidance of what is asked of them. For some children, separation anxiety is a problem. Being left by their parents to spend a few hours in an over stimulating environment can be traumatizing to a child.
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., and while the back to school fear is also common, your child can often show other signs of various anxiety disorders that can affect them and prolong throughout the year such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety. It’s not just fears and worries that can be troubling, depression can also be a factor. The impact of this can result in poor performance and attendance throughout the child’s school year.
For parents, it’s important to pinpoint exactly what your child is struggling with. Are they struggling with their academic work? Do they feel pressure inside the classroom? What about socialization amongst their peers? Many factors can play a big part in how your child reacts to school anxiety throughout the year, but it’s important to take the time to sit down with your child one-on-one and ask them what specifically scares and intimidates them. Assure them that what they’re struggling with does not make them bad, wrong, or crazy – instead, assure them that anxiety is something that a lot of people, even you, struggle with.
Often, school systems and mental health professionals are available to assist the child as they learn to understand and cope with their anxiety. If possible, it can be good to discuss arrangements that can be made within the school system to help the child feel less fear and stress.
It is crucial to help the child to understand that what they feel is perfectly okay. Showing your support and encouragement can help your child feel less alone. Having patience is also key. Make plans with them of what could help on more difficult days, such as reading or listening to music before school. Carving out a time to talk about their feelings and practicing relaxing meditative techniques may also help.
Heading back to school can be scary, and school can instill and prolong anxiety throughout the year in anyone – but with the right understanding and acceptance, your child can succeed.
Written by Annie Elizabeth Martin