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Back to school anxiety is a normal emotion

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 9:03 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The transition back to class as summer ends can be a stressful time for children and parents alike, especially with all the changes happening right now due to the Coronavirus pandemic. If you’re a parent of a school-aged kid right now, you’re probably feeling all over the place. Things are stressful, we’re in an unprecedented time and a lot of things are new, one of which is back to school and that could be causing some anxiety, but that’s normal.

“Anxiety is a natural emotion that we all experience. It has relevance, we need anxiety. Without it, we wouldn’t be compelled to prepare for anything that we have to do in the future,” said Mental Health Clinician, Monique Andrews.

She said the feeling is normal and the sooner we start to talk about it, the better.

“I think bringing it out to the forefront and in the open space so that other people can assist you and help you is probably one of the biggest things we can do to protect ourselves again the feeling of being the only one that’s experiencing it,” said Andrews.

Parents can help have those conversations by normalizing the feeling of anxiety for your kids. Address what they are and ask what they’re actually worried about. Andrews said knowing what to look for is key, but also how to talk about it is important too.

“Using terms like I can understand or I recognize or this must be frustrating, normalizing it in a kind empathetic way will go a long way with children feeling comfortable to discuss what they’re experiencing. Children sometimes can become afraid of things that they weren’t originally afraid of, they might get anxiety about going outside, worried about getting sick,” she explained.

Andrews said anxiety can manifest itself differently in different people. Some things to look for are an excessive worry, inability to calm yourself down or relax, a change in sleeping habits, irritability, being withdrawn, or too busy.

She also said just because we’re social distancing, doesn’t mean you or your kids have to be socially isolated. Keeping connections and getting into a routine now are all things that help prepare for the school year and the changes that are coming with it.

“Every morning, waking up at the same time, working out a schedule for classes and courses and when you’re going to do homework, but to also include breaks. Sometimes those breaks could be to have a meal, sometimes those breaks could be to go outside and get some sunshine, some fresh air, some exercise,” said Andrews.

In the end, normalizing anxiety creates a space for kids to know they’re not alone.

As for if and when you should seek professional help, Andrews said if it gets to the point where it’s affecting your life in a negative way.

“Resiliency is bouncing back from an adversity and learning to have some growth after it and the only way you can do that is to identify this is an adversity and these are some normal experiences, but you can do this, we can do this together as a family, we can overcome this and we can be successful together,” said Andrews.

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