How are you feeling with back-to-school season approaching?
Excited? Stressed? Nervous?
BC Children’s Hospital child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Ashley Miller has a few ideas for you.
“Parents should really follow their child’s lead,” said Dr. Miller, and recognize the signs of stress or anxiety in their kids.
“For younger kids, it’s clinginess or crying or more tantrums, being more irritable and refusing to go.”
Other kids will try and get out of class by complaining of stomachaches or headaches.
There are a lot of reasons why kids might worry about going back to school.
“For younger kids, it’s missing their parents, not knowing anyone, or wondering if they’ll like their teacher,” Dr. Miller said. “For teens, a lot of it is fitting in socially and their achievement in class.”
Although worrying about school is natural to a degree, Dr. Miller said parents should make sure they’re checking in with their kids on a regular basis.
“For kids who are more anxious about going back to school, it’s important for parents to understand and be empathetic to it. It might seem like a small thing to us, but it’s a big deal to them.”
How parents react is key, she added. If kids are met with judgment, they’re not likely to open up to their parents again.
At the same time, Miller noted it’s important not to blow little day-to-day struggles out of proportion and to remind kids that they can handle it.
“A good way is to say, ‘I remember about how last year, when this happened, you were able to do this thing and you were able to deal with it,’” she said.
“If a repeated pattern of intimidation starts happening, then parents do need to get involved. It’s not enough to just say, ‘Oh, stand up for yourself.’”
For kids who are naturally just a little more anxious, Dr. Miller recommends two apps: Breathr, to help teens be more mindful, and Stresslr, for younger kids.
She said it’s important for parents to breathe as well.
“Everybody gets stressed from time to time, but it’s good to look at household stress as a whole,” she said. “Making sure no one is over-scheduled and doing things like going for walks to relax.”
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