Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Call with Dr. Basil Bruno

This month Pedimedica asks Dr. Bruno for his insight and recommendations on how to ease your child’s back to school anxiety.

How to Overcome School Anxiety

Going to school offers a wide range of emotions for parents as well as children. Whether it's dread or excitement, fear or euphoria, all of these feelings can be bottled up inside our kids. Remember that any one symptom of distress does not cement a child's fate or mean that their school year will be a failure. All kids, at some point in their academic career, will struggle, so try hard not to view their setbacks or anxiety as a permanent threat to their school career. Every year that your child goes through school will be filled with highs and lows, good moments and devastating ones. The emotions your child experiences before the start of school can also lead to a general sense of anxiety-a feeling most children won't be able to articulate.
As parents, we have to realize that our children rarely will open up to us if they are experiencing any problems or anxiety, whether at home or at school.  This can be due to embarrassment, fears of being punished, or retribution from siblings or classmates.   And sometimes they just can’t figure out what is bothering them, a common sign of anxiety. Sometimes there are signs that we can pick up on that may help us decide if there is a problem.  Significant changes in behavior sleep patterns, homework or grade patterns, and friendships may be signs that your child is experiencing school issues or anxiety. As parents, it’s our instinct to want to jump right in to protect and help our children.  Although it’s fine to initially address the situation with your child, it’s important to not be overbearing and to back off if you are met with resistance.  It might be helpful to talk to your pediatrician if this occurs.

It's important to remember that when placed in any new situation, all children (and parents, too) are going to need to take time to adjust. Realize that your child will require a period of time to figure out their comfort zone and what's required for them to fit in to their new environment. Fortunately, there are steps you can take as a parent to make the prospect less daunting-the key is to prepare your child both emotionally and physically so that they can have the best start possible this school year.

Proactive parents can help their kids overcome school anxiety. Dr. Bruno lists several tips for parents to employ:
  • Identify and address anxieties you have about your struggling child.
  • Set a time and place to discuss the issue when your child is most relaxed.
  • Start the discussion with hopeful empathy.
  • Help your child remember past successes.
  • Form a plan.
  • Familiarize your child with the school.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if you notice any significant changes in behavior.
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