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Back-to-school anxiety is normal — and sometimes the kids feel it, too

August 19, 2013 - Erin O'Neill
It’s that time of year again. Are you ready to go back in the water?

No, I’m not talking about “Shark Week” — though for some parents this time of year, swimming with man-eating fish with razor sharp teeth might be preferable to trying to get the kids up and out the door.

I am talking about ... Back. To. School. Dun, dun, dun.

The experts say that now — or really prior to now — it is best to get your school-age children back in the habit of tucking in early and getting up early in anticipation of the start of school. It is also a good idea to limit time with the tube, the computer games and the running around with neighborhood friends.

However, if you — like me — are a parent of a child who has a hard time going to sleep when it’s still light outside, it can be tough to lay those ground rules. After months of carefree fun, it can also be difficult to get back in the habit of nightly homework. In some cases, it’s not just difficult but a downright knock-down-drag-out battle.

But even if a child seems to be excited to see school friends, to meet new teachers and to get back into the routine, mom and dad might not necessarily be ready for the added stress.

Maybe your child is starting a new school, maybe this is a year of intense testing or perhaps you are worried over safety issues. These are all legitimate concerns and we, as parents, probably aren’t doing our job if we’re not a little anxious.

The American Psychological Association offers the following tips to get children — and parents — back in the swing of things so no one is likely to go off the deep end:

- Practice the first day of school routine. You know, early to bed, early to rise. Pack a lunch. Make sure they bathe themselves once in a while.

- Get to know your neighbors, especially if you are in a new school district. If your child is riding the bus, check out the surroundings. Find out who will be waiting and riding with him or her. - Talk to your child about any fears or worries he or she might have.

- Empathize. We’ve all been there. Let children know that nerves are normal but things that are different are not necessarily bad.

- Get involved and ask for help. Join the PTO, volunteer to chaperone field trips, communicate with the teachers and principals. Build up a network of trusted friends, teachers, administrators and other parents.

Before you know it, everything will fall back into place and going to school will again become the daily routine. Just relax. Take a deep breath and jump in. It’s going to be OK.


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