Doctor gives tips to parents as kids head back to school and may experience anxiety

Back to School 2021-2022

Back to School Photos 2021-22

(WTNH) – This is a big week for kids heading back to school, and as they get their backpacks together this morning, they may be feeling a bit nervous about what’s ahead, and the pandemic is only adding to it.

It’s important to take note of whether those nerves are starting to evolve into something more serious.

It’s anything but a typical start to the school year. It’s not only a big change to students’ day-to-day routine, for many, but it’s also their first time back to school in person in more than a year, and they’re learning behind masks. Many of them are also aware of the controversy the pandemic has caused when it comes to back to school, masks, and vaccines.

“Kids are hearing the importance of the vaccine all the time, and they know they can’t get vaccinated, so they’re scared about that,” said Dr. Tim Kearney.

It’s why the Community Health Center’s Chief Behavioral Health Officer Dr. Tim Kearney says parents need to be paying extra attention to how their kids are handling the transition and doing what they can to keep them informed.

“Make certain you don’t make promises you can’t keep. ‘Well, I know you’ll never get sick, or grandpa is going to be safe.’ We don’t know that,” Dr. Kearney said.

There are signs a child may be feeling the anxiety that you can be on the lookout for. Sleep disturbance, nightmares, fighting with friends and siblings more than usual, and refusing to go to school. Some more serious cases can involve threatening to hurt themselves or others.

It can show up differently depending on the child, so it’s important parents know what’s unusual for their kids and have conversations about what they’re hearing so parents can put any unnecessary fears aside.

“We can try to be the conduit of active, accurate information. We can help them learn to discern what’s real and isn’t real,” Dr. Kearney said.

The best way to identify any red flags is to keep the communication open, have the family conversations over dinner or in the car to monitor how the transition is going. Communication is key during this period of the year.

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