by Shelley Co, D.O., Child and Adolescent Psychiatry NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County
Stores are getting crowded with families buying school supplies as summer vacation comes to an end. The start of school is just a few weeks away. For many children, going back to school and facing new classmates and teachers can be stressful.
Several approaches can be taken to manage anxiety during the change from summer break to school time.
Asking children their thoughts and feelings about school is important. For young children, going to school may be the first time they are going to be apart from their families. Because of this, some may feel nervous, scared, or sad about going to school. Saying that other children may feel the same helps children see that they are not alone.
Visiting the school during the summer break can decrease anxiety and help families prepare for the start of school. This helps children become comfortable with the school before the school year even starts and helps parents become familiar with how long it takes to get there. Talking about what the school day and schedule will be like also prepares children for school as they become aware of what to expect during the school day.
Setting regular bedtimes and wake up times in the weeks before school starts helps children prepare for school. Since many children during the summer break have gotten used to sleeping and waking up whenever they want, it is important for children to get back to a normal sleep schedule so that they do not feel tired during the day and can focus on schoolwork.
Helping children get organized is key, especially for older children who may be worried about going back to school and dealing with a busy class and after-school schedule. Families and children can talk about what can be realistically done during the day. Making schedules can also help organize activities like homework and after-school activities. In addition, planning regular eating and sleeping times helps children stay nourished, rested and energized.
A certain amount of anxiety and stress about going back to school is normal and can be dealt with using some of the strategies listed above. If you are concerned about your child’s anxiety related to going back to school, you can talk about this with your child’s doctor or school counselor and ask for help in finding a mental health professional.
Pediatric and behavioral health services are available here at NYC Health + Hospitals Kings County to aid families and children with anxiety. Support is available as long as we know about anxiety and are aware of what our children are thinking and feeling about going back to school.
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