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Ease kids’ school anxieties
Posted: August 3, 2011
Last Updated: August 3, 2011

Whether your children are facing their first day of kindergarten or staring their freshman year of high school, there is a good chance your children’s anxiety is making things rockier than usual at home. The kids could be snapping at each other, the new back pack with all the school supplies might be missing and the baby’s shoes could be lost as you face gathering the kids for that first trip out the door to face the new school year.


Marsha Bowman, division manager and counselor at Border Area Mental Health Services, suggests parents recognize children’s anxiety is the cause of the sudden difficulties at home during this time of year, “Children are anxious over facing a new school year, and parents need to make an effort to ease their children’s concerns.” This can be made more difficult because small children might have trouble expressing their anxiety verbally, instead young children are prone to complain of upset stomachs, loss their supplies or report vague trouble occurring at school.


Children are mostly anxious about friends and, to a lesser extent, schoolwork. More than anything, children want a group of friends at school who accept them and want to be around them -- whether this is playing on the playground in kindergarten or gathering for lunch at a table in the High School cafeteria.


For children facing that first day of kindergarten, Bowman suggests talking to your child about what’s expected the first day of school. To ease fears take your child to the classroom before hand to meet the teacher and allow the child to become familiar with their new classroom.


“Knowing the teacher and what’s expected can ease the child’s stress,” Bowman says. Walking young children to the classroom the first day and reassuring them that you will be there to pick them up at a specific time can aid the child in making the transition to the classroom. Also, speak with the teacher if your child is extremely anxious. Vomiting, crying jags and other anxiety-caused outbursts during school should be discussed with the teacher. The teachers are trained to ease student’s anxieties and can report back if the child seems unduly stressed. Simple reassurances, extra time with your child to cushion the transition to a new environment, and additional support can ease even the toughest cases of back-to-school nerves.


Some children fear failure or feel the pressure to excel, especially in high school. “Kids who haven’t done well in school often worry that they’ll be embarrassed or humiliated,” Bowmen says. Parents can take simple steps to alleviate this worry by offering tutoring to their children or talking to the teacher over their concerns. “Sometimes poor performance can be a clue to the possibility of the child having a learning disability,” adds Bowman. Public schools offer testing that can pinpoint learning disabilities and suggest academic options that can help your child become more successful.


The social stress to make friends can cause children further anxiety when starting at a new school. Old friends might have moved away or a new school might mean all new social cliques leaving older children uncertain of where they fit in. Parents can help out by finding another child in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school or ride with on the bus. Parents can urge children to keep connected with friends over the summer or call their friends to discuss school in the weeks prior to starting. This can ease their fears and children can see they share the same worries their friends express. Also, consider social activities or school clubs to help your child connect with fellow students that share their interests.


Most important is to ease your child’s anxiety when returning back to school. Try to recognize their fears and help him/her face them.  Listen to what your child says and reassure them that most of the other school children are facing the same concerns. If their anxieties or issues are not resolved consider speaking with a school counselor. They can offer support to your child during the school day.


To learn more about easing children’s anxieties call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.


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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.