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Tips for dealing with back-to-school anxiety

SALISBURY — With the first day of school quickly approaching for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, some kids are excited. But others are riddled with the mental stresses of heading back to school.

Dr. Crystal Bullard, a child and adolescent psychiatrist for Atrium Health, offers these tips to help parents manage their child’s back-to-school anxiety.

• Talk it out:  Discuss with your child what it is they’re feeling anxious about. Explain what anxiety is and what it feels like, including stomachaches, throat tightness, sweaty palms and shakiness. Also, normalize anxiety by helping them understand that most kids feel nervous on the first day of school.

“Feed your children lots of encouraging words to boost their self-esteem and talk about how this school year is going to go well,” Bullard said.

• Be prepared: Before the first day of school, take your child to the school to meet their teachers and tour the building. If your child is returning to the same school and feeling anxious, try to find out if there are any familiar children who will be on their bus or in the same classroom, or find older children who have a similar class schedule.

Also, help your child pick out an outfit the night before school – one your child likes and feels confident wearing.

“Knowing what to expect and feeling prepared helps to decrease anxiety,” Bullard said.

• Monitor bullying: Encourage your child to talk openly with you about bullying concerns. More serious bullying will need to be addressed by teachers, administrators and parents.

“Keeping it a secret is never helpful,” Bullard said.

• Keep a routine: The home environment significantly affects a child’s school performance. This includes waking up each morning at the same time, setting a routine breakfast, lunch and dinner time, and having a routine bedtime schedule.

“Children function best in a consistent home environment with structure and routine,” said Bullard.

• Teach coping mechanisms: Train your child to take long, deep breaths to calm anxiety. Breathing deeply slows down your heart rate and relaxes your muscles.

“This is a great way to help manage your nerves,” said Bullard.

Rowan-Salisbury students return to class Monday.

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