Have you noticed increased anxiety in your kids about school starting back up? Most of us can think back to our school days and remember the back-to-school jitters, but do kids today have it a little tougher than previous generations?

Gone are the simple days when adolescents only had to worry about their upcoming test or making friends. Today's students have to deal with the effects of social media infiltrating their real-life social interactions, they're subjected to ever-increasing academic demands, and must deal with an increase in bullying. The CDC reports an increase in anxiety among children aged 6 to 17 over the past decade, from roughly 5.5% in 2003 to 7.1% by 2016. To top it off, this year many students may be experiencing a loss of social skills and concern about returning to school after over a year of online study due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So how can parents help? First, recognize the signs. Anxiety can look different based on the student's age group, but some indicators may be:

  • struggling to pay attention
  • fidgeting/having a hard time sitting still
  • heightened level of clinginess
  • feeling sick frequently (sometimes be seen by others as “faking” sick)
  • tantrums/behavioral problems
  • avoiding eye contact in class
  • freezing or panicking when asked to answer a question
  • struggling with school work
  • failing to turn in homework
  • keeping to themselves instead of socializing

In more severe cases physical symptoms may appear, such as:

  • nausea
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • trouble sleeping

If you recognize these signs in your child, it's important to talk with them to try to find a solution. Discuss possible scenarios that may have them nervous/worried and help them prepare before those situations occur. Developing routines can be very beneficial! Create a new tradition. It can be as simple as a pep talk over breakfast or an after school snack along with a conversation about how the day went.

If you're not able to assist your child in overcoming their school anxiety on your own, there is no shame in seeking help. A qualified mental health professional can assist in assessing the cause of anxiety and how to work through it, developing techniques to help along the way. The school's administration should also have resources available.

Times have been tough. You and your child are not alone if this is something they’re going through.

Here are some tips for self-care during the pandemic: