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Chris Magryta, MD: Some ideas for lessening back to school anxiety

As our kids are now back in school, many are at new schools and even college. As parents we need to be present moment with them as they engage this new period of life. They may have serious trepidation and frank fear about the new environment or leaving home. Here are some ideas for transition stress dampening.

Grade school times:

1) Get them up at the appropriate wake up time for school and have a regular breakfast every morning. Make sure it contains carbohydrates, fats and protein for a sustained brain experience. For example, eggs, whole grain toast and fruit. A pure carbohydrate breakfast, like a pop tart and orange juice, is a recipe for inattention and failure.

2) Get them to bed at reasonable time: 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. depending on age. K through 5th should get 9-10 hours of sleep. 6th through 8th need 8-9 hours per night.

3) Stop screen time from Sunday night at 5 p.m. until Friday night at 5 p.m. Help their brains focus again on reading and scholastic activities. Kitchen docking station is an ideal location for electronics to rest at night at dinner time. (never in their bedroom)

4) Give your kids a quiet area of the house to do homework and read. This could be in their room or a study room elsewhere in the house.

5) Have your kids involved in the school lunch process. Have them pick healthy meals from a few choices. Choose vegetables with a dipping sauce and fruit for snacks. Lean meat or nut butter sandwiches. Soups or chili are a great packable meal.

6) Put a positive note in your child’s lunch box to brighten their day. This is great for the older kids as well (even if they act like they don’t like it).

7) Get involved in school if you can. They will love having you in the classroom randomly.

8) Instruct them on correct backpack use with both straps over the shoulders to avoid back issues. Backpacks are heavy these days.

9) Be a role model at home with family reading time and avoiding TV at night. Eat meals together five nights a week if possible.

10) Exercise with them and encourage athletics and after school activities a few nights a week. Busy kids are rarely in trouble. (they need 2-3 free play nights a week).


For teens and college students: this time is all about supporting their quest to find out who they truly are.

1) Talk about your experiences with high school and college.

2) Let them know that you are here to listen in the first few weeks to their stresses and fears. Be in the present moment with them.

3) Work hard on healthy meals for them to maintain a focused mind.

4) Help them understand that being who they genuinely are is the key. Being someone else or trying to please others through faking or lying will always catch up to them. Praise their strengths and help them understand how you dealt with tough adolescent situations. This makes you real in their eyes and will open them up to conversations that can heal them.

5) Give them the freedom to grow, but be there when they stumble. Try not to judge failure but encourage it for growth.

6) Encourage them to get 8-9 hours of sleep per night and let them sleep in on Saturday if they need extra rejuvenating sleep. This is especially true for our student athletes.

7) Never stop encouraging them to pleasure read!

8) Exercise with them routinely.

My take home point today: Be prepared, keep enjoying summer until it is gone.

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com

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