Back to school blues
What to do if your child is nervous or anxious about going to school
Starting school or returning after the lengthy summer break can be overwhelming for some children and teenagers, causing worries, nerves or even anxiety.
"Anxious children and teens worry about many different school-related issues such as teachers, friends, fitting in and being away from their parents," Sydney Local Health District Occupational Therapist Stacey Argent said.
Prior to the first day of school, your child may cling, cry, have temper tantrums, complain of headaches or stomach pains, withdraw, become sullen or irritable.
"It is developmentally normal for school aged children to experience fears and worries, this is often the result of cognitive and developmental changes," Stacey said.
"It's really important for parents to coach their children through gradually facing their fears and worries."
Research shows if children avoid things they are fearful of they will over time become more anxious and generally avoid new and uncertain situations.
If children can learn to face their fears in a gradual, consistent and structured manner they can learn the skills to cope with and manage their anxiety.
For younger children, especially those starting Kindergarten, it can help to make them as prepared as possible. Try the following suggestions:
When the anxiety is linked to separation from mum or dad it can help to give your child a small object that reminds them of you to take to school.
Stacey also advises parents to prepare your child for what you are about to do, don't unexpectedly leave and make goodbyes brief rather than dragging them out. Importantly, try to stay calm yourself.
"You know your child best. If you’re worried about anxiety, consider seeking professional help," Stacey said.
For help with anxiety contact your family GP, local child and family health centre or school counsellor or visit www.healthyfamilieshealthychildren.com.au/