What parents should know about back-to-school stress, anxiety

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:07 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Going back to school is fun and exciting for many kids, but it can also bring some stress and anxiety—especially after what we all experienced over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why 16 News Now sat down with South Bend Clinic Psychologist Dr. Stephen Matteson. He says this is something that is normal, but it’s also something that every parent should know.

“One of the most important things I like to tell kids if they are having anxiety about going back to school, especially in COVID times, is that that is normal that they are not alone there,” Matteson says. “And there are lots of other kids in their school, probably in their class, who are going through the same thing. So, anxiety doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It is really treatable. We can get you some help and we can help you manage that anxiety, so you don’t have to be miserable.”

Matteson also touched on some signs on anxiety that parents can be on the lookout for.

“If a kid does expresses to you that they are worried about something, that is a pretty obvious sign, right?” he says. “If they are having pretty big emotional outbursts, especially during predictable times of the day. If every morning getting ready for school is a battle, or in the car at drop off. If they are screaming and crying and it seems like it is more than a typical ‘I want to stay home and watch cartoons, I don’t want to go to school’ (outburst). If it seems like a genuine level of stress, those are pretty big signs of anxiety.

“Some smaller signs of anxiety that I would look out for are things like biting your nails or picking at things, fidgeting, problems with appetite or with sleep,” Matteson added. “If it is taking a really long time to get to sleep, or we are having some really bad dreams. Even bodily signs of anxiety. If your kiddo has a stomachache or a headache, and they don’t have any other signs of illness, if they don’t have a fever, they are not vomiting, things like that, that can sometimes be your body getting that stress out and kind of manifesting in your body as well.”

If you think your child may be experiencing some anxiety, the best thing you can do is consult with your pediatrician and make a plan that works best for you.

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