Stomach aches, headaches, trouble sleeping or a negative attitude about school can all be protests from your child about heading back to school for the year.
While it can be a stressful time for youngsters, teenagers and parents alike, Monongalia County West Virginia University Extension Service Agent Eric Murphy offers parents some guidelines for dealing with common issues surrounding the back-to-school transition.
“From changes in mealtimes and sleep schedules to growing lists of school items to purchase, this time of year presents challenges to all children who are making the transition into a new routine,” said Murphy. “Hearing complaints or seeing resistance from your children can be frustrating, but it’s important to acknowledge their anxiety and find the root of the issue in order to help them adjust.”
Signs of children being worried about school can be physical, emotional or behavioral. Often they’ll complain about an upset stomach or become unusually clingy, especially in young children. Older kids may show their anxiety by displaying sudden outbursts or becoming withdrawn.
“While it’s common for first-time school goers to be nervous about meeting new people or separating from parents and familiar routines, kids who have been to school may experience anxiety as well,” said Murphy. “If you notice signs of anxiety in your child, regardless of age or whether or not he or she is a first-timer, you need to determine if the child’s anxiety is based on fear of the unknown or if the issues goes beyond that—like poor classroom performance or bullying.”
According to Murphy, common causes of anxiety include:
• Being bullied or teased
• Negative experiences in the classroom
• Feeling inadequate for not knowing the answers
• Not having fashionable, up-to-date clothes
• Losing papers and books or not completing homework
• Parental pressures about school achievement
• Embarrassment about being uncoordinated in sports
• Significant family problems or changes
As far as solutions go, Murphy says prevention is key.
“As a parent, display positive attitudes and give them uplifting messages about school,” said Murphy. “Read school-themed picture books with your child, develop a good-bye routine, send encouraging notes in their lunch boxes and help them prepare by ensuring they have the school books, supplies and clothing they need—anything that can help them become motivated and look forward to the approaching school year.”
If you can’t seem to help your child’s anxiety go away after discussion and positive reinforcement, Murphy suggests it may be time to seek professional help.
“If you’ve tried everything and the anxiety still interferes with your child’s enjoyment in other areas of life, it may not hurt to talk to a mental health professional who can help teach relaxation and coping skills to reduce anxiety,” said Murphy.
Murphy offers more advice for navigating the emotional well-being of heading back to school at http://fh.ext.wvu.edu/emotional-wellness/handling-school-anxiety
For additional questions, contact Murphy at Eric.Murphy@mail.wvu.edu or 304.293.7201.
CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service
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