VANCOUVER The first day of school is coming soon and BC Children’s Hospital reminds parents and caregivers there are steps they can take now to help children prepare for school-related anxiety and stress.
For many children and youth, beginning a new school year is an exciting time – an opportunity to make new friends, set goals, excel in a favourite subject or play on a sports team. For others it can be unnerving; common sources of anxiety are caused by several things such as, adjusting to a new routine and a new teacher, pressure to make new friends and take part in social situations.
Dr. Susan Baer, psychiatrist in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders clinic at BC Children’s Hospital, recommends parents plan ahead to help ease the back-to-school transition.
“This is the time of year when children can become anxious about going back to school and so it’s important for parents and caregivers to be aware of what they can do to ensure a smooth transition,” she says. “Taking time to acknowledge your child’s worries about the new school year and problem solve solutions, can help them shift their focus to the positive aspects of school.”
Tips for parents and caregivers:
• Introduce children to the school year routine one to two weeks before school starts
• Plan for transitions – getting to school, returning to school after breaks
• Provide regular routines – morning, school, homework, bedtime
• Hold realistic expectations that are right for your child’s age
• Help your child identify his or her feelings – nervous, intimidated, shy
• Ask your child if they have ideas or solutions for a particular concern
• Show yourself identifying your own feelings, problem solving and being brave
• Remain calm when your child is anxious
• Help your child shift their focus to the positive aspects of school
• Praise and reward even their small accomplishments.
Consider seeking more help if your child:
• Attempts to remain at home or with a caregiver
• Refuses to attend school on certain days (field trips)
• Refuses to eat in public
• Refuses to use public bathrooms
• Constantly worries
• Continually seeks comfort and reassurance
• Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events
• Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching breath)
• Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively.