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Back-to-school anxiety? BC Children’s shares tips for parents and caregivers

 
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Vancouver – With students heading back to school in September, BC Children’s Hospital is sharing tips on how to help children deal with anxiety and stress.

While some children and youth embrace back-to-school excitement, others need help easing into the school-year routine. Some common worries for children include difficult classes, making new friends and meeting and adjusting to a new teacher. These worries are normal when introducing your child to a new school experience or changing their routine.

Dr. Jane Garland, a psychiatrist with BC Children’s Hospital, recommends parents plan ahead to help ease the back-to-school transition. Whether it is your child’s first day at school, or if they are having a hard time adjusting after summer break, gradually exposing them to their environment can make a big difference.

Tips for parents and caregivers:
  • ​Introduce children to the school year routine one to two weeks before school starts
  • Plan for transitions – getting to school, returning to school after breaks
  • Provide regular routines – morning, school, homework, bedtime
  • Provide clear expectations, limits and consequences
  • Hold realistic expectations that are right for your child’s age
  • Help your child identify his or her feelings – nervous, intimidated, shy
  • Pay attention to your child’s feelings
  • Ask your child if they have ideas or solutions for a particular concern
  • Show yourself identifying your own feelings, problem solving and being brave
  • Remain calm when your child is anxious
  • Praise and reward even their small accomplishments
Consider seeking more help if your child:
  • ​Attempts to remain at home or with a caregiver
  • Refuses to attend school on certain days (field trips)
  • Refuses to eat in public
  • Refuses to use public bathrooms
  • Constantly worries
  • Constantly seeks comfort and reassurance
  • Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events
  • Has physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching breath)
  • Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively.
Quotes:

Terry Lake, Health Minister

“While back-to-school can be stressful for both children and parents, a new school year is an opportunity for children to practice healthy, lifelong coping skills. We have many resources available to support parents and caregivers in helping their children and youth to transition successfully to the school year routine.”

Dr. Jane Garland, Psychiatrist, BC Children’s Hospital

“Taking time to expose your child to their new routine one to two weeks before school starts can help lower their anxiety and help instil excitement. This could involve simple things like planning and packing lunches together, building a school supply list or visiting the school playground for a picnic.”

Learn More:

Resources for children, youth, young adults and parents:
  • ​AnxietyBC: Information on how anxiety can express itself and effective strategies to address it in children, youth and young adults.
  • Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre: Information and resources on mental health and substance use for children, youth and families, or call 604-875-2084 or toll-free 1-800-665-1822 to speak to a parent or youth support person with experience with mental health challenges.
  • MindShift: An interactive app designed to help youth learn how to relax, develop more helpful ways of thinking, and identify active steps that will help them take charge of their anxiety.
  • mindcheck.ca: An interactive website designed to help youth and young adults age 13-25 to check out how they’re feeling and quickly connect to mental health resources and support.
  • BC FRIENDS Online Parent Program (www.friendsparentprogram.com): An online resource for parents of children in kindergarten to grade 7. FRIENDS is an anxiety prevention and resiliency building curriculum available for use in BC classrooms. Resources include videos of the FRIENDS curriculum in action at home and school, a parent information workshop, tips for using the FRIENDS skills at home, and related downloadable activities.
  • Stresslr is a free web app that provides a fun and engaging way for children ages 9-11 to learn about stress, understand how they react to it, and develop healthy strategies to cope with stress in their everyday lives. Stresslr can be used on any computer, tablet or iPhone, and will soon be available on Android devices as well! Learn more by visiting www.stresslr.ca.
BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority provides expert care for the province’s most seriously ill or injured children, youth and young adults, including newborns. Child and Youth Mental Health provides a diverse range of specialized and one-of-a-kind tertiary mental health and substance use services for children, adolescents and young adults across the province.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across B.C., working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca.

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Media Contact:
Heather Oliver
Communications Officer
Provincial Health Services Authority
604.875.3732
Media pager 604-871-5699
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