Children’s Home Society of Florida offers tips to help families

Returning to school after extended time away can be a source of stress and worry for kids and parents.

Pre-COVID-19, 20 percent of children in Florida were struggling with untreated mental health challenges, and 1 in 6 children aged 2 to 8 years old had a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. Since the pandemic began, many children have experienced disruptions in their educational environments, including learning from home and limited social interactions with their peers.

Whether kids are returning to in-person classrooms or simply advancing to a new grade level, managing back-to-school anxiety can be critical for a child’s success in the classroom and at home.

As a national leader in trauma-informed care, we’re sharing some tips to help recognize and manage if your child is experiencing back-to-school anxiety.

Some general anxiety symptoms to watch out for:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating or trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Having trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

For many children – especially those with existing mental health and behavioral challenges – adult support and understanding can help.

Six ways you can support children:

  1. Build a routine – stable, daily routines create structure and minimize stress for your children and family.
  2. Open conversation about anxieties – ask questions and allow children to express their feelings without judgement. Talking about anxieties can help them cope with and overcome concerns.
  3. Get enough sleep — if there is difficulty falling or staying asleep, explore nighttime rituals to calm before bed including reading together or quiet stretching exercises.
  4. Monitor eating habits and limit junk foods and sugar – replace sugary snacks with healthy fruits, nuts and proteins.
  5. Learn coping and relaxation strategies – deep breathing exercises and spending time outside in nature can help reduce worry and anxieties.
  6. Try not to get frustrated as a parent – Stay positive and remember to take a break when you need it.

When to seek help:

When mental health challenges and anxiety symptoms are significantly affecting your child’s daily life negatively — if routines are difficult to follow due to the symptoms or if attempts to support your child are not improving symptoms – it may be a good time to reach out for help.

We offer a free, confidential Family Support Warm Line providing day and night access to on-call trauma-informed counselors. Kids, teens and adults can access a counselor support via text or call 1-888-733-6303 or visit chslistens.com to learn more.