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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A new school year can bring anxiety for kids

As a new school year begins, the anxiety for kids sometimes can be overwhelming. As a parent of two young girls 11 and 12 years old, I know this all too well.

This year, my youngest daughter will start middle school. It's a big change for an 11-year-old who has been at the same school for the past six years since kindergarten. Last year she had only one class and this year she will have seven classes and seven different teachers.

She will change classes on a bell schedule and have only four minutes in between each class. She also has a locker this year. She's tell you she's excited and nervous at the same time. She got her lock a few weeks ago, memorized the combination and has been practicing opening it.

Besides all the new classes and teachers, there's a new school and a lot more students. It's understandable to have some anxiety.  Doctors say parents can expect to see anxiety in kids when they first start school in preschool or kindergarten. The second peak of anxiety is when children are aged 10-12.

If your child is having anxiety it's important for you to talk to your child and help them understand a lot of kids have anxiety at the beginning of school. A little anxiety is good, but if your child continues to have anxiety and it becomes excessive you may need to seek help from a counselor or doctor.

I have a friend who does counseling and gave me some great tips a few years ago, when my older daughter had anxiety about school. It's an exercise anyone can do who has anxiety or fear about something.

One of the exercises we did was to name the anxiety she was having the “Fear Monster.” We had her draw this “Fear Monster” on a piece of paper really big and on the bottom of the paper draw a picture of herself small. We had her write all the things the “Fear Monster” would say to her. After she did that picture, we had her draw on another piece of paper herself big and the fear monster small.

We looked at those fears and my daughter realized that they were just that lies.
The things she was worried about like failing a test was a lie because she never failed a test. She was worried about people saying mean things to her, but no one ever said mean things to her. She was worried about her teacher not being there and having a mean substitute, but she had never had a mean substitute. She figured out that she was worrying about things that she didn’t need to worry about.

We did other techniques that included visualizing what she was afraid of and overcoming it by being brave and conquering her fear.

I heard a statistic that 90 percent of the things we worry about don’t ever end up happening anyway, so why worry. Most of the time worrying about something can’t change the outcome.

I know we all go through this at some point in our life. Anxiety usually happens when we begin something new. Hopefully once the newness wears off so will the anxiety. Here's to a great new school year, stress and anxiety free!

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