Ex­perts Share Tips For Cop­ing With Back-to-School Anx­i­ety

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BACK TO SCHOOL - By An­drea Per­domo

Ah, the in­evitable sign that sum­mer break is com­ing to an end: back-to-school ad­ver­tise­ments. As ben­e­fi­cial as they are for a par­ent's wal­let, they may be trig­ger­ing anx­i­ety in their chil­dren as they pre­pare to re­turn to school.

"For chil­dren, as it per­tains to school, it's nor­mal to feel scared about some­thing that is com­ing new," said Mi­amibased psy­chol­o­gist Lina Acosta San­daal, founder of Stop Par­ent­ing Alone, an or­gan­i­sa­tion ded­i­cated to shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about child de­vel­op­ment with par­ents.

Chil­dren of all ages ex­pe­ri­ence school-re­lated anx­i­ety and fear, said Jill Ehren­re­ich-May, di­rec­tor of the Child and Ado­les­cent Mood and Anx­i­ety Treat­ment Pro­gram at Univer­sity of Mi­ami.

"In younger chil­dren, we see more fears re­gard­ing sep­a­ra­tion. As they age, they worry about more re­al­is­tic fears like get­ting along with oth­ers and whether or not they will be bul­lied and if they will be able to do all of the work they are re­quired to do and test­ing," said Ehren­re­ich-May.

While adults know that some of the things their chil­dren worry about do not ac­tu­ally cause them harm, San­daal urged par­ents to re­sist the urge of telling their kids "there is noth­ing to worry about."

"That doesn't res­onate with the child be­cause their brain is telling them that they are in dan­ger,” Said San­daal. "So if you as a par­ent say that is not hap­pen­ing, they can't trust you be­cause their body is telling them that they are in dan­ger."

In­stead, San­daal said par­ents should lis­ten with em­pa­thy to their child's wor­ries and try to help them come up with a plan to con­front that fear.

In or­der to help over­come anx­i­ety, a child needs to be ex­posed to the cause of their worry.

“Slowly ex­pose them to what they are afraid of. Whether it's school, whether it is go­ing to a party, you can do it slowly and with dif­fer­ent lay­ers," said San­daal.

If a child's anx­i­ety causes phys­i­cal symp­toms like vom­it­ing and sweat­ing, both psy­chol­o­gists urge the par­ents to seek pro­fes­sional help.

Ex­perts rec­om­mend that par­ents lis­ten with em­pa­thy to their child's wor­ries and try to help them come up with a plan to con­front that fear.

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