Will I get more homework? What if my teacher is mean? Starting a new year comes with a lot of unknowns, so it’s no wonder that many parents report that their kiddo is struck with anxiety this time of year. The biggest clues: Her happy summer mood has quickly turned restless, irritable, or withdrawn, or she starts complaining about headaches, stomachaches, or sleep problems, says Marian Fish, Ph.D., the school psychology graduate program coordinator at Queens College in New York City. The good news? It’s nothing for you to worry about, because we’ve asked the experts what you can do:
- Share your story. Tell your child about that time in third grade when you were so worried about [whatever] but it ended up being totally okay. It will be proof that she’ll be able to overcome her stress as well, says family physician Rallie McAllister, M.D., co-author of The Mommy MD Guide series.
- Get ’em moving. All of the sitting still that comes with the return of school can wreak havoc on a kid’s nerves, says Dr. McAllister. To counter that, make sure your child gets plenty of exercise after school. “Physical activity is great for preventing — and alleviating — anxiety,” he says.
- Reset sleep. If you can, try to adjust summer sleep times to the school schedule one to two weeks before the first day, says Fish. A sudden change in routine can trigger stress. If it didn’t work or if sleep is just hard to come by, practice deep belly breathing right before bed.
- Make a plan. For instance, if your child is worried about meeting new friends, have him wear (and look for) conversation-starter clothes. How it works: He spies a classmate with an Angry Birds T-shirt. He likes Angry Birds, too! Ask potential-new-friend if he likes Angry Birds Star Wars. Bond created!