Changes in children’s routines, everything from sleep to mealtime, can disrupt their attitudes and performance. West Virginia University Extension Service’s emotional wellness expert Jane Riffe, says that the first step to combating these disturbances is to recognize what each child needs and to prepare him or her for the classroom.

“As parents we tend to focus on the tasks at hand like buying supplies and making sure we have copies of the class schedules,” Riffe, a licensed social worker and professional counselor, said. “We can become so wrapped up in making sure students are physically prepared that we overlook the fact that there are emotional aspects to school that need our attention.”

Riffe offers advice for navigating the emotional well-being of heading back to school on the WVU Extension Service website http://fh.ext.wvu.edu/emotional-wellness. She also provides suggestions to help boost children’s confidence in the classroom and guidelines for telling when a child’s anxiety is more serious and will benefit from professional help.

She suggests that parents first try to determine if the child’s anxiety is based on fear of the unknown, or something that goes beyond that, like poor classroom performance or bullying.

“For some students, particularly teenagers, they often feel that wearing out-of-style clothing can open them up to ridicule,” Riffe said. “Many parents might brush this off, but they need to remember that it can be a true source of anxiety for these teens and is something they should talk about with their children.”

And while it’s often children who show their fear, parents can have a negative impact on the transition back to school if they project their own worries on to their child.

“Parents’ worries can be contagious for the children,” Riffe explained. “It’s important to take measures to make yourself comfortable with the situation, too. Meet your child’s teacher, arrange play dates for your child or find other ways to help put yourself at ease.”

For more information on other WVU Extension youth development programs in your community, visit www.ext.wvu.edu or contact your county office of the WVU Extension Service.

-WVU-

caw 8/23/12

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CONTACT: Cassie Waugh
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