How to address your child's back-to-school anxiety

Posted at 8:00 AM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 20:07:51-04

HELENA — Back to school time comes with a lot of excitement for parents and kids alike, but it also comes with a lot of anxiety for some children.

That's why Intermountain Clinical Director Daniel Champer says it's important to talk with your kids and keep a close eye on their behavior this time of year.

“Change in expectation or setting creates anxiety in all of us. It’s a survival mechanism,” Champer said. Champer explains that stress can be both good and bad, and when it comes to children, it's not always clear which is which.

Champer has been working with children for 15 years and said kids have different ways of showing anxiety. The biggest clue that your child may be anxious about going back to school will be a change in behavior.

"They might be fidgeting more, or they might be speaking different or acting different or you might see some regression in behavior where they might baby-talk more or they might be doing something that they've done a couple years ago. Those are all indicators they might have something going on inside that is different," Champer said.

Anxiety may also manifest itself in children in physical ways because there is a direct connection between the emotional center of our brain and our body.

“When you’re nervous for something, your palms might start to sweat or you get cotton mouth,” Champer said. “They might not know they’re anxious, they might not know they’re worried about something, but it’s coming out in that change of behavior.”

Champer said having an open and honest conversation with your child about what they're feeling is a good way to address the anxiety. If problems persist for longer than two to three months after school starts, he said it may be time to seek out professional help.