School starts this week and while some children may be excited to see friends and get back into a routine, other children will feel anxious and worried.
“It’s very common for children and youth to experience anxiety and stress as they head back to school,” says Island Health Psychologist, Lisa Van Bruggen, Ph.D. “Try role-playing through what may be socially challenging situations for some children such as not having close friends in class or being assigned a tough teacher. Having a plan can reduce anxiousness.”
Here are some tips to prepare for back to school and signals that your child might need extra support.
Tips for parents and guardians to support students:
• Get into a routine now: set sleep and wake times
• Talk to your child about their worries and then try role-playing through situations
• Practise walking, biking or busing to school
• Focus on the positive aspects; ask your child, “What are you most excited about for your first day of school?”
• Ask your child to help choose the outfits for the first week of school
• Together with your child, pack up the schoolbag the night before, including treats
• Set up regular talk-time throughout the school year to encourage your child to share fears
• Help your child develop healthy coping and problem-solving skills
Consider seeking professional help if your child:
• Frequently attempts to stay home from school
• Refuses to attend school on certain days
• Worries constantly or shows extreme shyness
• Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching his or her breath)
• Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively
• Begins to act ‘out of character’
Youth aged 15 to 24 years may benefit from an app created by Island Health and funded by Coast Capital Savings called Booster Buddy. The self-manage support system encourages youth to share their feelings, keep track of appointments and medications, use coping skills, and follow self-care routines. BoosterBuddy can be downloaded at the App Store or Google Play and there’s more information about the app on the Island Health website. There are also tools and support for youth at Anxiety BC.