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Parents Can Ease Back-to-School Stress
Date:8/25/2011

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- For kids, the end of summer means an abrupt end to staying up late and sleeping until noon: It also signals the beginning of brand new challenges and perhaps a case of the back-to-school jitters.

Whether your child is a preschooler or a teen, some anxiety about the first day of school is normal. The trick for parents is to know how to ease your children's stress and manage your own expectations for the year ahead, experts said.

Parents shouldn't overact, even if kids have a rocky transition. "Children have to deal with these uncomfortable feelings," said Christine Kodman-Jones, a clinical psychologist in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. "It's scary, but if they still do it and follow through, that shows real strength and resiliency."

The major shift in routine, as well as the fear of the unknown, is enough to make children feel nervous about the first day of school, said Ted Feinberg, former assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists.

Their worries can range from concerns about who their teacher will be to whether or not they will be smart enough to do well. Younger children and preschoolers might have separation anxiety when it's time to leave their parents or worry about riding the bus or being able to find the bathroom, said Kodman-Jones.

Kodman-Jones recommended that parents take the following steps to help children cope with this anxiety:

  • Plan a visit. Let children tour the school well before classes start so they can meet their teacher, see their classroom and play in the playground.
  • Talk about the new routine. Be enthusiastic and let your children know what they can expect during a typical school day.
  • Start the transition early. Establish earlier bedtimes and set the alarm so kids can get used to their school schedule ahead of time.
  • Play school at home.
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