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Mental Health Blog

Child Therapy: Anxiety During the Back to School Season

August 31, 2022

Drawing of parent and child

Amy Mauro

Anxiety is a natural and all too common occurrence in our daily lives as adults. Unfortunately, anxiety also affects children in many ways, especially during the back-to-school season throughout August and September.

During this back to school season, many children have a tough time readjusting to life at school and the many challenges that presents, such as homework, making new friends, and keeping up with their sports and after school activities. Even more difficult, children and teens have faced much adversity and change over the last few years as the global pandemic progressed. Going from traditional learning to online and now adjusting to going back to in-person or hybrid classes. These changes are no small adjustment for children and adolescents in their developmental years. Because of this, anxiety in this younger generation has increased significantly.

Sometimes as parents, we feel we have to do everything for our children by ourselves. But when dealing with potential mental health problems, especially at this early and sensitive age, turning to a trained professional such as a child psychologist or child and adolescent therapist is the best way to be sure your child gets the help they need and can continue living a happy and healthy life.

Handel Behavioral Health has child therapists and counselors all over Massachusetts serving the Pioneer Valley, Hampshire County, Hampden County, Norfolk County, and Metrowest Boston, as well as our offices located in:

We also offer online therapy to accommodate  any needs of our patients. Reach out to one of our child psychologists today and find out how we can help!

In this article we will cover:

  • What is child therapy?
  • Common symptoms of anxiety in children
  • How to help your child with back to school anxiety

What is Child Therapy?

Child therapy can also be referred to as child psychology and child counseling. What this is, is a way for children and adolescents to openly express their emotions and learn how to treat mental health sustainably. It provides an opportunity for youths to understand how to manage emotions so that they can continue to develop in a healthy environment that they can create for themselves with the help of a counselor or therapist. Psychologists have the ability to explain to children the complexities of mental health in simple ways that they can understand. Child therapy is a great way to help children adjust to new situations, get over past trauma, learn how to cope with negative emotions, and deal with the stresses they currently face and that they will eventually face as they get older and progress through life.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Deciding whether your child or adolescent needs therapy is a big decision. In general, therapy is always the right decision for anyone, not only children but for adults. If we view therapy as we view athletics and going to the gym- a way to exercise and improve ourselves (where athletics focus on the body, therapy focuses on improving the mind)- it’s easy to understand why it’s such a good investment in the long term.

With that said, identifying common symptoms and signs of anxiety or mental illness in children is crucial information that can influence the different types of therapy to explore. Some symptoms of anxiety in children include:

  • Inability to focus in class or at home
  • Declining grades
  • Trouble making or keeping friends
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Irritability or severe sensitivity
  • Frequent nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Clinginess
  • Constantly feeling tense or fidgety

Some of these symptoms can be hard to spot at first and others require sensitivity when talked about, so be mindful of your child’s behavior and remember to be an approachable and calming presence to them so that you can help them through their struggles.

How to Help Your Child With Back to School Anxiety

When we do notice these signs and symptoms of anxiety in our children as they return to school this fall, there are many ways you can help and guide them through this challenging time, even if symptoms persist. 

  1. Set expectations and a plan of action
    Before school even begins, be sure to set realistic goals and expectations so that there are no surprises when the time comes. To take it a step further, talk with your child and come up with a “gameplan” as to how you will each help accomplish these goals.
  2. Get into a routine early and stick to it
    Once again, this should be completed before school even begins. Establishing a routine is a proven method of reducing anxiety in children and even adults. During these hectic first weeks, and especially during and following the pandemic, a routine is something they can rely on and expect, which is exactly the stability a child needs.
  3. Make time for social activities or extracurriculars
    Besides being a great way for children to develop and learn skills like teamwork, social activities and extracurriculars like sports, theater, and any other club activities will help children blow off steam after being stuck inside a classroom all day. Kids need to be exposed to social situations to develop properly, so starting early is the best way to accomplish this.
  4. Be aware of anxiety triggers and be proactive
    Being mindful of your child’s behavior is crucial in determining what sort of mental health treatment they may or may not need. Understanding what triggers anxiety or maladaptive behaviors is the first step to helping them through it. Don’t wait until something becomes a large problem to address it. 
  5. Validate their emotions and talk through them
    When we do notice these behaviors and emotions they are struggling with, it’s important to empathize with them and give validation to these feelings so they know they aren’t alone and they can count on you to help guide them.
  6. Discuss coping techniques
    In addition to validating their emotions and feelings, parents need to be able to discuss sustainable and healthy ways to cope with intense thoughts or stress. Even if it’s just small pieces of advice, talking about these coping strategies will help children understand there is a healthy way out of whatever they’re dealing with inside.
  7. Seek help from a child psychologist
    Lastly, talking to a child psychologist is the best way to handle your child’s stress, anxiety, or whatever they’re struggling with mentally. A professional will be able to provide and discuss coping strategies more thoroughly and be able to help identify and solve the underlying issues of your child’s anxiety.

Contact Handel Behavioral Health For Child & Adolescent Therapy

The back to school season can be hard for our children and it can even cause anxiety. When this happens, the best way to help your child is to seek out help from a medical professional such as a child therapist, counselor, or psychologist. Contact HBH today and help your child recover from anxiety.