School Anxiety - Why Kids Have It and How To Cope

By Megan Trent

August 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2010 at 6:52 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - For some going back to school is an exciting time of year, but for others the experience can be scary. Ranging from simple back to school jitters to serious anxiety disorders, more students than one might think are stressed on their first day back in the classroom.

Fort Wayne psychologist Michael Scherbinski works with Prometheus Psychological Services. He helps numerous young people every year suffering from back to school anxiety. He says while students may feel alone, they aren't. A majority of students, he says, experience anxiety on some level. He says it's more common among young girls, but a common thread with almost all of his clients is a fear of the unknown.

There are many reasons students give for their anxiety. The child may have grown six inches over the summer and is afraid of how the other kids will react. Maybe they are moving to a new school or transitioning to the next level, like from middle school to high school. He says other triggers could be changes at home - a new sibling, a divorce, or a death in the family.

Scherbinski advises parents to resist the temptation to say, "Don't worry." He says that is especially true if it's something as serious as bullying - another trend he's seen on the rise. Regardless of the complaint, he says parents should be available to their children and keep a line of communication open.

He suggests parents share their own first day of school experiences as a child, or plan a special event before school starts each year so children have something to look forward to.

"If it does persist after the first several days, the first week of school, maybe talk to them. Talk to a guidance counselor. See if it's a situation you feel comfortable addressing one on one with the student. Maybe try to get staff involved, and if it does seem to be a more debilitating anxiety, then maybe contact a professional," says Scherbinski. A professional could help diagnose social anxiety, separation anxiety, panic disorder, or another serious condition.

He also says students will experience stressful situations throughout their lives, so it's best to learn coping mechanisms early on. In addition to communication, some of those coping resources could include letting students have control over some small things like picking out clothes or packing their own lunch. He says parents should encourage their children to reconnect with friends before the first day of school and find out where their lockers and classrooms are in advance. It's also good to get into a schedule each morning and prepare for school the night before by laying out clothes or getting a backpack ready.

Dr. Michael Scherbinski has put together a list of helpful information and tips aimed at reducing the stress and anxiety of returning to school. Just click on the following link or go to the News Links section of our web page and click on "school anxiety."


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