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Tips to ease back-to-school anxiety

Children and youth will soon say hello to a new school year.

Children and youth will soon say hello to a new school year.

For many it’s an exciting time, but the change in routine can give some kids back-to-school jitters.

Meeting new teachers, worrying about where to sit at lunch, and wondering if they have classes with friends are common sources of anxiety for students of all ages, all the way from pre-school to high school.

“Children and youth can build up a lot of stress and anxiety about having to get back into a routine and what to expect when the new school year begins,” said Dr. Susan Baer, psychiatrist in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders clinic at BC Children’s Hospital. “These feelings are normal, and there are steps parents can take now to help ease the transition from summer break to the new school year.”

Dr. Baer recommends parents plan ahead and gradually expose kids to their environment and new schedule.

Tips for parents and caregivers:

​* Get into a routine one to two weeks before school starts: plan nutritious meals and snacks as well as morning/bedtime habits

* Talk to your child about what may be worrying them: try role-playing through situations they may face at school

* Plan for transitions, including getting to school and returning to school after vacations

* Throughout the school year, encourage your child to share his or her fears by setting up a regular time to talk

* Help your child develop healthy coping and problem-solving skills

* Be mindful of your own behaviour—model confidence and comfort when your child is anxious

* Focus on the positive and celebrate small accomplishments

* Consider seeking more help if your child does the following:

​* Frequent 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

* Worries constantly

* 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 his or her breath)

* Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively

* Begins to act in a way that is ‘out of character’, if a sudden and unexpected behavior change is observed