Doctors give tips for parents if children are feeling stressed or anxious going back to school

KKTV 11 News this Morning
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 3:38 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A Colorado doctor has tips for parents if their children are feeling stressed or anxious going back to school soon.

11 News spoke with the Children’s Hospital Colorado, which saw slightly lower volumes in their emergency departments and in-patient psychiatric unit related to kids’ mental health during summer break after two difficult pandemic years. But, doctors warn that kids are still struggling.

“The start of the school year is always a difficult time for a lot of kids. For younger kids, they are often struggling with separating from family members that they’ve maybe been seeing every day during the summer. Kids making transitions to middle school and high school often struggle because there is a lot of uncertainty and unknown,” said Dr. Sarah Kennedy, licensed clinical psychologist at Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

Doctors recommend parents should be on the lookout for if their child is isolating or avoiding family members ahead of going back to school. Younger children may externalize their worries more, possibly with outbursts. Older children may not want to talk about their feelings or may be moodier than usual.

“A lot of kids too have been away from social stressors and academic stressors during the summer, and it can be really challenging to be away from anything for a period of time and to need to do it again,” said Kennedy.

Here are some tips for parents on how they can help their child ahead of going back to school:

First, doctors recommend starting the school sleep schedule a few days or a week ahead of the first day to get kids used to the new routine.

It may be helpful to some children to practice drop-off and meet the teacher in person, so kids know what to prepare for in the first few weeks back to school.

Doctors also recommend arranging social activities or play dates ahead of the first day to help kids be around their peers again.

If parents know their child is going to struggle going back to school, doctors recommend letting the teacher and school counselors know about their child’s stress.

“If we pick up on the signs of a mental health concern early, sometimes it can be easier to treat that concern. Mental health concerns in childhood and adolescence put kids at risk for all sorts of negative outcomes later on in adolescence and adulthood,” said Kennedy.

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