Staying Cool During Back-to-school

PacMed doctor offers advice on easing back-to-school transition for kids

As summer comes to an end, children and parents are hustling to complete last-minute tasks in preparation for the upcoming academic year. In the overwhelming whirlwind of purchasing supplies, completing physicals and reevaluating bedtimes, anxiety about returning to school may settle in for youngsters. Thankfully, Pacific Medical Centers' psychotherapist in Behavioral Health, Rene Czerwinski, is here to offer expert insight on easing the transition from summer fun-in-the-sun to back-to-school cool.

Why do you think anxiety is a prevalent emotion felt by students as the new school year approaches?

Anxiety occurs for many different reasons and can vary for age groups. It includes worrying about whether a teacher will be strict, mean or friendly, how much homework will be given, how fellow classmates will behave, having classes with friends, having the "right" clothes and fitting in as well as concerns over making the sports team. All of these are normal worries for students returning to school.

What can parents and guardians do to prepare children for the upcoming school year in order to lessen these stressful feelings?

As a parent, friend or loved one, you can take several proactive steps to combat back-to-school anxiety and give children the confidence they need to excel in school. Patience is the number-one thing parents can start with for back-to-school anxiety. This includes helping your child set up a good routine for bedtime and establishing morning habits and other routines at least two weeks before school starts. Set up a regular time to discuss the day and if anything is troubling your child, and make sure to give them your undivided attention without any distractions. Validate your child's concerns by letting them know they can talk to you and that you support them.

What advice can you offer children to manage overwhelming feelings of stress once the school year actually begins?

Sticking to a routine that includes staying on top of schoolwork and getting enough exercise can significantly reduce stress levels and feelings of anxiety. Children should also know that they can talk to their parents, guardian or a school counselor about how they're feeling and know that they are supported.

What do you suggest for parents and children if anxious feelings outlast the initial first few weeks of school?

Once school starts and children fall into a new routine, monitor your child's anxiety levels and behavior to determine if it improves or declines. Depending on the source of the anxiety and whether you believe it is temporary/circumstantial, it's important to remember that behavioral health specialists can help with anxiety and depression.

Rene D. Czerwinski, LMHC, NCC

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Read more about the author, Rene D. Czerwinski, LMHC, NCC or call for an appointment: 206-621-4045 .