Column: How to manage back-to-school fears


By ABBY BETZ
Youth First Inc.

It’s the time of year (again) that most of us look forward to and some of us dread — back-to-school. It can be difficult for children to make the transition from the carefree, fun days of summer to the everyday grind of school life, especially when students have not been in school buildings for many months due to a worldwide pandemic.

Transition is a common occurrence for young people, and most do adjust well — but there are some who find themselves unable to appropriately adapt to seasonal and other life changes. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. When anxiety begins to cause physical and emotional distress, parents and guardians can respond by employing some simple yet effective coping strategies to help alleviate fears and create a framework for a successful start to the school year.

Here are some general tips:

• Develop a routine or schedule. Even just a few repeated actions, like going to bed at a regular time, can have a calming effect.

• Make sure your child is getting plenty of rest and maintains a well-balanced diet.

• Encourage your child to express their fears or worries with you; continue to remind your child that it is normal to have concerns.

• Avoid giving your child reassurance — such as “Don’t worry about it so much! Everything will be just fine!” — instead, encourage your child to problem-solve and make a plan to act on specific fears.

• Role-play different scenarios with your child so he/she will know how to respond when placed in uncomfortable situations.

• Model appropriate responses and focus on developing healthy coping skills for yourself.

• Focus on the positive rather than dwelling on negative thoughts/feelings; try to replace negative emotions with something positive.

• Praise your child and reward them for efforts at positive behavior.

There may be times when your child is in need of more extensive services to help them cope with anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 80% of children with diagnosable anxiety disorders do not seek out or receive treatment.

Moreover, research has shown that untreated children are at higher risk of performing poorly in school, engaging in substance abuse and isolating themselves from peers and other social situations. As a parent or guardian, it is important to heed the warning signs of anxiety that may cause abnormal physical and emotional distress and seek out the proper treatment for your child.

Abby Betz, LCSW, is the Youth First Social Worker at the Holy Trinity and Washington Catholic School campuses in Dubois and Daviess Counties. Youth First, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 64 Master's level social workers to 90 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.




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