Returning to school brings anxiety to some kids

CREATED Aug 27, 2014

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With school just around the corner, kids may be feeling a bit anxious for their big first day.

Dr. Marcia Slattery, a pediatric psychiatrist with UW Health, said August and September are busy months at the clinic because of back-to-school jitters.
“Human nature is that we go to the worst whenever we don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Anticipation cranks up the anxiety, and we start to imagine all the worst outcomes… No one’s going to like me, I’m not going to be able to do the homework, etc.”
Slattery added that anxiety should decrease a few weeks into school as children begin to feel more comfortable with their new routines and surroundings.
She encouraged parents to consider what their children go through every September.
“The analogy I often use for parents is: Imagine that every year you have a new job or you’re switched to a new department. So, sometimes it may be somewhat familiar, and sometimes it may be very different, and it doesn’t take them long to imagine that would be anxiety-provoking,” Slattery said.
She said kids may show signs of anxiety by talking about school all the time or by avoiding the subject. Parents can help ease nerves by appearing calm and designing an action plan for situations that may cause worry.
“Monitor your own anxiety,” she advised. “The kid picks up on, ‘Well, if Mom and Dad are worried about this, maybe I should be, too.’”