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Helping Your Child Beat Back-To-School Anxiety

With back-to-school time just around the corner for Wisconsin kids, an expert on child behavior says some anxiety is normal. (Mario Villafuente/Getty Images)
With back-to-school time just around the corner for Wisconsin kids, an expert on child behavior says some anxiety is normal. (Mario Villafuente/Getty Images)
August 16, 2017

MADISON, Wis. - The start of another school year, just a couple weeks away, can trigger some anxiety among younger students, but there are things you can do to help minimize your child's concerns.

Dr. Marcia Slattery, director of the UW Health Anxiety Disorder Program, said you'll likely notice that younger school-age children may become more irritable as the onset of school approaches.

"The grade school kids definitely start asking more," she said. "They start wanting to have detail about what's going to happen, basically trying to say, 'What are the unknowns that I need to know about?' So, more questions, more seeking information."

Slattery works with parents and children who have serious anxiety problems, helping them practice being in situations that make them apprehensive and learn to control their anxiety in those situations. She said visiting the school with your child before the start of the school year can help reduce their concerns about unknowns.

Having anxiety about being in a new school or a new grade with new students is nothing to be overly concerned about, Slattery said. All children will have some anxiety about any kind of change, she said.

"I think it becomes more of an issue if it's more of an underlying anxiety problem for the child - if the anxiety persists despite getting back into the school and getting into the routine, et cetera," she said. "But having some of the apprehension and the anxiety before the start of school is very normal."

Slattery said it's important to listen to and respond to your child's questions about the upcoming school year.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we often want to make is saying, 'Don't worry about it. It's nothing to worry about. It's going to be fine,' " she said. "That, in essence, is telling the kid, well, you're really not listening and you don't want to hear about it, and they'll stop talking about it."

If you suspect your child may have a real problem with anxiety, she said, the first step is to talk with your pediatrician, who will help you figure out the next best steps for your child and the family.

More information is online at uwhealthkids.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI