Best ways to beat back-to-school anxiety

High school freshmen listen to Wexford County prosecutor Jason Elmore talk about consent and criminal sexual conduct on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Cadillac, Mich. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The thought of going back to school can sometimes conjure up mixed emotions. Even if the return to school brings kids anxiety, doctors say there are things parents can do to help fight that.

Dr. Ann Lagges, a pediatric psychologist with IU Health, said one of the best things parents can do to help ease anxiety is set fair expectations. There are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, and students have to be able to fit in the necessities in that time frame.

"One of the things we talk about a lot is sleeping, eating and exercise are not optional," Lagges said.

If those three activities can't fit into a kid's schedule, something else needs to be cut back. Lagges advises parents to get as much information on the front end as possible. Be prepared by walking through kids' schedules, meeting teachers and finding and figuring out the locker situation.

Another way to ease anxiety is to be empathetic to young kids who are worried about not having their friends in their class. Encourage kids to see their friends at other times outside of class, and make plans to get together outside of school. Help them see it as an opportunity to make some new friends.

Course difficulty may be a real concern for middle or high school students. Whether your child is self-motivated or needs a little outside pushing, it's Lagges suggests talking to them about their classes. If parents notice their kids staying up late working on a particular class, it may be time to seek tutoring sessions. If they're already in tutoring, it could be time to see if another class would be more appropriate.

"Give the child a better chance at success," Lagges suggested.

Lagges said as kids age, parents should pull back more and allow the student more opportunities to be more independent. This becomes especially important for college students. If you set them up for success when they're young, they'll have an easier time managing schedules, waking up on their own and setting reasonable boundaries.

There are telltale signs of school anxiety that may require help from a professional. These might include refusing to go to school or complaining of headaches and stomachaches. If parents notice this, first try talking to kids to see if they can troubleshoot it. If that doesn't work, professional help from a counselor or psychologist might be necessary.

For more information and tips on handling back-to-school anxiety, click here.

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