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How to recognize and address your child’s back-to-school anxiety

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Posted at 1:06 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 14:07:35-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With school districts in Missouri beginning class next week, KSHB 41 went to experts to find out how parents can recognize anxiety in their children and address those feelings.

Susan Pinne of Saint Luke’s Health System Crittenton Children’s Center said it’s normal for children to feel some anxiety as they return to school. Kids wonder if they’ll like their new teacher, where the cafeteria will be located, if they'll be in class with their friends, and more.

Counselors have confirmed that, in addition to these concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic has created more stress for students.

Pinne said anxiety becomes an issue when it affects a child’s daily activities. Signs a child may be overly anxious include changes in their behavior.

Children may regress, act younger than their age, become angry more easily, be mopey or fight before going to school in the morning.

Pinne suggested parents consult with their child’s teacher and counselor before deciding to seek professional help at a clinic like Crittenton.

“Schools have wonderful mental health resources and counselors and social workers,” Pinne said. “I would definitely build a rapport with those folks and and lean on them for the resources they can offer. And then, if you're still feeling like your child needs just a little bit more help, reach out to an outpatient clinician in the community.”

Pinne believes going back to school during a pandemic may lead to new anxieties or obstacles. She considered the peer pressure students might feel to wear a cool mask, or not wear a mask if the “cool kids” don’t wear theirs.

When speaking with children about anxiety, Pinne recommended keeping a calm approach and trying to be relatable.

“It’s easy for parents to feel really stressed and be anxious about the fact that their children are anxious. We all feed off of one another,” Pinne said. “So the most important thing to do is to be calm yourself; to set aside enough time for your child to open up; and to let them know that you understand their fears, that you validate their concerns.”