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Tips to help with back-to-school anxiety

Kids and parents alike may experience some anxiety about going back to school.

MINNEAPOLIS - Stress, anxiety.

Anytime we're experiencing a transition in life, like going back to school, these feelings can creep in.

"Kids might be feeling a little bit worried or a little unsure of what to expect from their teacher, from the kids in the classroom, or for first-timers from school as a whole," said Dr. Annie Hansen-Burke, a Senior Lecturer with the University of Minnesota's Department of Educational Psychology.

But, how do you know if your kids are feeling this way? Signs or symptoms?

"It's not unusual for kids to cling or to cry or to even tantrum possibly at the idea of separating from their parents at the start of school. But if that goes on for a number of weeks, then that might be something that warrants intervention," said Dr. Hansen-Burke.

So, what do you do?

Dr. Hansen-Burke gives three tips:

  • Normalize their feelings. Talk to them about it and be positive.
  • Prepare them for what to expect. See their school, meet their teachers.
  • Practice their routine. Going to bed, picking out their clothes, and planning how they'll get home.

And, then, once school starts, engage.

"I know a lot of people recommend not to just say, 'How was your day?' But to ask specific questions like, 'What's one good thing that happened today? What's something that you weren't expecting that happened at school today?' Getting them to really start talking," said Dr. Hansen-Burke.

But, anxiety can hit high school and college kids, too, and they may not be as transparent with their feelings.

"If you see a change in behavior. Irritability or crabbiness, even becoming more quiet than usual. That may be a sign that your child has something on their mind that they need to talk about," said Dr. Hansen-Burke.

And, parents, it's normal for you to feel anxious, too. It helps to gather info on the school, and remember, your kids are looking to you for comfort.

"From birth through, you know, the rest of their lives, you're sort of the secure base that your kids go out and explore the world from. So, to the extent that you can be comfortable or express comfort about the challenges that they're facing and express optimism at how well you know they're going to handle it," said Dr. Hansen-Burke.