Back to School – The Child
One definition of stress is, “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation” (Merriam-Webster). Stress can be good (planning a wedding) or bad (losing a loved one), but stress of any kind is hard on the mind, body and spirit.
The start of a new school year is an exciting time. However, as summer comes to a close and the start of the school year approaches many children may feel stressed. Some even demonstrate signs or symptoms of stress and anxiety. Younger children may bite their nails, wet the bed, complain of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments and express worry or concern about attending school and/or being away from you. Young adults may appear anxious, depressed or withdrawn. If you notice these symptoms, here are some things you can do to help.
If your child is younger:
1) Prepare them. If possible, visit the school and meet the child’s teacher so that your child can become familiar with the surroundings. Show them where they will be dropped off and picked up, where their class is and where they will eat lunch.
2) Offer choices. Let the child pick out some of the things s/he will use in school, such as the book bag, lunch box, types of pencils, etc. This is a fun activity and may help the child look forward to using the things s/he has selected.
3) Remember successes. Remind your child of past things s/he felt nervous about, but then later enjoyed (swimming, going to preschool, making a new friend).
If your child is older:
1) Check in. Try to check in with them from time to time and see how they are progressing once school begins. Ask open-ended questions, like, “What are the names of some of the people you eat with every day?” Or, “Who sits next to you in first period?”
2) Be a cheerleader (and maybe they will too). Encourage them to research the various clubs and activities offered at school and get involved in at least one of them. This is a great way to build relationships and cultivate a sense of belonging. If they are too shy to ask, you can do it for them by contacting the guidance office.
Watch for signs of anxiety and depression, such as: worry, nervousness, insomnia, physical ailments, hypersomnia (sleeping too much), eating more or less, trouble concentrating, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness and thoughts of death. Note: You should call 911 immediately if you have reason to believe your child is planning to take his/her life.
Starting a new school year can be a wonderful but stressful time. If you feel your child may benefit from speaking with a licensed mental health counselor during this time of transition, please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services of Orlando today at (407) 443-8862 to make an appointment.