Helping kids cope with school anxiety

While parents have been busy shopping for school supplies, some kids are occupied trying to manage back to school anxiety.
Helping kids cope with school anxiety
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 6:38 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The school year is underway for many throughout the tri-state. While parents have been busy shopping for school supplies, some kids are occupied trying to manage back to school anxiety.

Mental Health Therapist with Owensboro Health David Roark says this is relatively normal.

“I think as a society we are more anxious, so to say that our kids are, I think absolutely yes,” Roark explains. “Everybody has anxiety and it’s at different levels, but everybody will have some anxiety at some point going back to school, even the kids who are successful to a certain degree.”

Anxiety in kids can be portrayed in many different ways. These can include things like headaches, stomach aches, trouble sleeping, irritability, and being abnormally quiet.

“It’s really really important to us as parents and teachers to not minimalize the anxiety when they come up and have a headache or stomach ache to just be like ‘oh, they’re wanting to get out of something or this will pass.’ It’s really important to ask more questions,” Roark urges caregivers.

Some kids are having trouble processing new and big feelings that might come with the start of the school year. Devon Culton is an Evansville parent and is seeing this first hand.

“I think they are just excited and have anxiety and all at the same time, they really don’t know how to handle all of this, it’s a lot of emotions,” Culton shares.

Roark brings up the point that sometimes kids, “don’t know what anxiety feels like, looks like, or even that there is a word anxiety in some cases.”

According to the CDC, 1 out of every 10 kids deal with anxiety. School however is making kids even more anxious. Roark says the largest contributor of this lately is the pandemic.

“A lot of people are catching up socially and academically,” Roark explains. “A lot of kids went through the COVID era and I think after you get that it throws things off tremendously. I’m hoping in time that we start to reduce that some. But I also think that there were a lot of kids probably due to the situation didn’t get the individual needs that they needed.”

If your kids symptoms persist, Roark says asking them a few questions might help.

  • What’s going on?
  • Are you afraid of anything?
  • What are you thinking about if you aren’t sleeping?
  • What’s keeping you up?
  • What are you afraid might happen?
  • What do you think could go wrong at school?

Another tip that may help is sitting down with a child and making a list.

“Listing down all the problems they have, all the things that are making them anxious, and coming up with ways that you can improve that. You can’t always take care of it all but you can do things that might make it improve,” Roark says.

Roark says creating a space for kids to open up and vocalize concerns is the first step in finding a solution.

Kids may need more help more than you as a guardian can offer. A great place to start is finding resources is on our Peace of Mind page.