Helping kids cope with back-to-school anxiety

Lots of emotions surrounding the first day of school

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The final countdown is on. The morning alarms will once again be going off bright and early as so many more kids around WAVE Country will be going back to school. With that comes so many emotions.

Anxiety can be contagious. If kids are anxious it rubs off on parents and it also goes the other way around. Kids are having to juggle a lot from a new grade, to new friends, new teachers, sometimes a new school. The feelings that come with that are normal, how it's handled them can make a big difference on our child's progress.

Regardless of how old children are, Dr. Katy Hopkins, a Norton Children's Medical Associates child psychologist, says it's not uncommon for kids to experience back to school anxiety.

"A lot of times we hear kids say I'm anxious for the first day of school," Dr. Hopkins said. "What they are really talking about is they are excited for school to start. The truth is anxiety and excitement are close cousins."

Those emotions can impact our bodies. Dr. Hopkins says parents to pay attention to their children's feelings.

"Where they are dreading the first day of school or if they are really resisting going to school at all," Dr. Hopkins said. "Persistent headaches or stomach aches that would be a cause of concern. Tummy aches and headaches are symptoms of anxiety."

On top of academic pressure, there is social pressure.

"Having access to social media, having cell phones can increase anxiety," Dr. Hopkins said. "Feeling like you can't put school away or leave you friends behind when you want to because they follow you home in your pocket."

A parents first move may be to rescue their kids but, Dr. Hopkins says let them communicate to you.

"It is our good and natural parenting instincts to say don't worry i'll take care of it, I will make sure you don't have to worry about that when in fact we should be saying is how can we problems solve this together," Dr. Hopkins said.

Dr. Hopkins recommends asking open ended questions like..."What are you most worried about with school starting?", instead of "are you worried?"

Also sleep is critical, kids and teens underestimate how crucial it is. Dr. Hopkins says elementary aged kids need 10-12 hours of sleep a night. Middle and high school kids need 9-11 hours of sleep a night.

For more information on how to help your kids feel better about going back to school, click here.

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