Back to school for the kid with issues: Separation anxiety and school jitters


The first days of school are finally here parents and teachers have made first impressions and fumbled through icebreakers. Some parents rejoice as their children leave the house for the day and some children may enjoy being back in school. Yet, an all too common feeling among students and parents is anxiety.

While children may feel anxiety and nervousness at the notion of going to school, parents may feel similar anxiety at letting their child go. Mentioned in earlier blogs throughout this series, there are numerous ways to prepare the child for school, regardless of age, background and mental health. Yet, parents may not be as prepared to let go of their children as they assumed.

Separation anxiety

It can be difficult for a parent to navigate when he or she should get involved in a child’s life. Similar to a little bird learning to fly, human parents are less reliant on instincts than our feathered friends, on when to swoop in and rescue before its offspring fall. It is important for young ones to learn on his or her own, but the parent should be involved in the child’s life. The idea is being involved, but remembering that it is the child’s experience and not the parent’s. published piece on parenting and separation anxiety. With younger children, showing an interest in the child’s day will help to ease anxiety. Ask about the classes, teacher, playground or any other aspect of school and listen. As explains, “You don’t need to be there to learn about what your child does at school.” Diane Levin, Ph.D., cautions parents, “ Your separation issues could be feeding your child’s,” and one way to avoid this is, “By developing a trusting relationship with the teacher.” The teacher is there to help the student learn and adjust to the learning environment.

Back to school jitters

A child can be nervous and afraid of going to school, especially a new school for the first time. Ruth A. Peters, PhD., addresses the topic of first week or so back to school jitters in children. Peters also expanded on an idea brought up earlier in this series about helping the child get comfortable with the school grounds, by visiting them before the semester is fully underway.

For older children in middle or high school, there may be more, “Concerns about dealing with kids from different backgrounds, shyness, and making sports teams or clubs.” One solution is to have the child attend orientation or have the child set up a meeting place with his or her friends during lunch.

Peters gives more advice for different age groups and grades, since the child’s anxiety and fear will change with age. It is important that a parent let the child experience school on his or her own, but be a line of support at home for the child’s needs.

White River Academy provides treatment and care for troubled boys from ages 12 to 17. The academy follows a boarding school format, offering guidance through a disciplined education program and instilling character values through service projects to promote positive growth. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

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