NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The newness of returning to school is felt by almost everyone as the new year approaches or starts, but for some students, it’s about more than just the usual jitters. They also fear bullying.  

Janet Lydecker, Ph.D is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. She is also a part of Yale Teen Power, which counsels kids and teens who are bullied. A return to school unfortunately will be a return to getting bullied for some.

“I really can’t emphasize enough that bullying is just devastating,” Lydecker said.

Lydecker says there is a perception that bullying is a normal part of growing up.

“We see depression and anxiety, we see suicide attempts, we see isolation and of course, we see eating disorders,” Lydecker said.

Some of the most common signs of anxiety in children are: 

  • Increased physical complaints (frequent stomachaches, headaches, etc.)
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constant worry

Whether it’s bullying or school-related anxiety, she encourages parents to work on opening regular communication with kids and teens.

“Establish a regular time when you check in your teens. Whether it’s a family dinner or right when you get home from work, right before the teen goes to bed or before you go to bed,” Lydecker explained.

If parents aren’t sure how they can help their child, below are some tips to ease their back-to-school anxiety:

  • A week or two before school, start preparing children for the upcoming transition by resuming school-year routines, such as setting a realistic bedtime and selecting tomorrow’s clothes.
  • Arrange play dates with one or more familiar peers before school starts. Research shows that the presence of a familiar peer during school transitions can improve children’s academic and emotional adjustment.
  • Visit the school before the school year begins, rehearse the drop-off and spend time on the playground or inside the classroom if the building is open. Have your child practice walking into class while you wait outside or down the hall.
  • Come up with a prize or a rewarding activity that the child could earn for separating from mom or dad to attend school.
  • Validate the child’s worry by acknowledging that, like any new activity, starting school can be hard but soon becomes easy and fun.

If a child won’t open up to a parent, consider having them talk to a friend, relative, or a trusted teacher.

The American Psychological Association says that children are extremely capable of coping with change and parents can help them by providing a setting that allows for resilience and encourages them to share and express their feelings about going back to school.

Also, don’t forget that kids and teens need a lot of sleep, which also helps alleviate stress. Children 6 through 12 should get 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night, and a teen needs 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.