With students heading back to school in September, BC Children’s Hospital is sharing tips on how to help children deal with anxiety and stress.
“Some children and youth embrace back-to-school excitement, others need help easing into the school-year routine,” says Dr. Jane Garland, Psychiatrist, BC Children’s Hospital.
“Common worries for children include difficult classes, making new friends and meeting and adjusting to a new teacher.
“These worries are normal when introducing your child to a new school experience or changing their routine.”
Garland recommends parents plan ahead to help ease the back-to-school transition.
“Whether it is your child’s first day at school, or if they are having a hard time adjusting after summer break, gradually exposing them to their environment can make a big difference,” she says.
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
• Provide clear expectations, limits and consequences
• Hold realistic expectations that are right for your child’s age
• Help your child identify his or her feelings – nervous, intimidated, shy
• Pay attention to your child’s feelings
• 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
• 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
• Constantly seeks comfort and reassurance
• Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events
• Has physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching breath)
• Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively.
“Taking time to expose your child to their new routine one to two weeks before school starts can help lower their anxiety and help instill excitement,” Garland says. “This could involve simple things like planning and packing lunches together, building a school supply list or visiting the school playground for a picnic.”