Planning Ahead Can Reduce Back-to-School Stress

SATURDAY Aug. 13, 2011 -- Although many children anxiously anticipate the first day of school, some may be more nervous about the transition than others.

Children who are excessively worried for a prolonged period of time may have a larger problem, an expert says.

"Even though most children are anxious during a time of change, they can be quite happy and adjust to the new school within two weeks. But if a child does not adjust, there are issues beyond the transition," child-adolescent psychologist Vivian Friedman, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a university news release.

Friedman said there are ways parents can help alleviate their child's stress as they head back to school, including:

  • Scheduling a play date with a child from the new school.
  • Visiting the school playground during the summer.
  • Taking a tour of the school before classes start.

Above all else, Friedman added, stay positive. That means, be on time, refrain from crying, and don't compare your children to others. That would only add to their stress.

"Character styles are persistent, not permanent. A child who approaches life with fear may also be a cautious adult," explained Friedman. "An easy-going child is likely to continue to approach life with a positive attitude. Help your child to see the glass half-full rather than half-empty. When a child has a negative view, after acknowledging how he feels, ask him how else he might view that situation or how someone else might see it."

Children who remain overly anxious about school for more than two weeks may suffer from trauma and need outside help, said Freidman. Children who exhibit the following symptoms may have an underlying issue:

  • Whining.
  • Threatening to run away or hurt themselves.
  • Having nightmares or other sleep disturbances.
  • Renewed bedwetting.
  • Having generally anxious behavior or startling easily.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides more back-to-school tips.

Posted: August 2011


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