Health Check: Managing back to school stress
The first few weeks back to school can be exciting. Parents and children are often eager to get back into a more structured routine.
But it can also bring a tremendous amount of anxiety for children.
"Like, worrying about homework and will I be successful?” Dr. Jennifer Jencks, who is the director of the Access Center at Bradley Hospital, said. “Will kids like me? Will I have the right clothing?"
Social media, she said is a biggie.
"One of things they're talking about the most now are how many people like their snapchat photos or how many people are responding to their comments. And they actually keep track of the numbers," said Jencks.
So, what to do about this social media explosion? Jencks said you can't possibly monitor it all, but you can keep yourself informed.
"And keeping your child informed about any risk, presumed dangers with social media, can be really helpful, she said, adding that it’s a good idea to talk with your child about stress and anxiety.
Instead of sitting your child down, she suggested something different.
"It might be better to go out and take them for a walk and talk with them while you're moving because it just helps your body regulate a little bit better, but you're also adding the component of talking through the problem,” said Jencks.
In addition to your child showing obvious symptoms of stress, such as being jittery, pale or sweaty, Jencks said to look for the more subtle symptoms.
"Some children get stomach aches or headaches,” she said. “They start to complain about somatic symptoms."
She suggested humor in dealing with your child’s stress or anxiety.
"It could be as simple as watching a funny movie or playing a game that makes people laugh," said Jencks.
And if more than a few weeks go by and your child isn’t any less stressed, Jencks said a parent should reach out for support, either at school or with a professional as soon as possible.
The Access Center at Bradley is a 24/7 hotline for parents, kids and doctors who have questions, concerns or need immediate help. The number is 855-KID-LINE (543-5465).
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