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Back 2 School: How to help your child overcome school anxiety

HOUSTON – Back to school should be an exciting time for kids and parents but what if your kids are nervous to return to school? 

Dr. Alton Bozeman, with the Menninger Clinic, suggests reasons why some kids have anxiety and how parents can help. 

SOCIAL ANXIETY

"Sometimes social isolation is related more to what they perceive or fear is going to occur instead of what has actually occurred."

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO 

Parents should teach kids it may be normal joking or teasing, but if you think your child is being targeted, Bozeman says it's best not to react.

"Bullies might find it humorous and therefore be more encouraged to do it," Bozeman said. "Definitely not encouraging like a 'fighting back type' nature (and encourage a) more 'that doesn't impact me' nature, I can ignore that type reaction."

PERFORMANCE ANXIETY 

If a child feels pressure to make good grades, they could experience performance anxiety.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO 

Stress the process.

"What that means is when your children are doing well in school, you want to focus on the process that allowed them to do well," Bozeman said. "Oh my gosh, you must have studied so well, you always came home and you did your homework, you were very attentive in class and look it's showing up on your report card. More so than now you have straight A's."

BEHAVIOR ANXIETY

In the summer they haven't had that label, they haven't had that pressure and now they're going back to the place where the Parent-Teacher meetings begin again, now the teacher complaints begin again, and the child may feel anxious about how their behavior will be address.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO.

"We want to be careful not to make the child feel labeled and make them feel like 'this is me and this is how my parents and teachers see me,' because that's going to be overwhelming and they're naturally going to want to avoid school so they avoid that label," Bozeman said.

HOW TEACHERS CAN HELP

Instead of saying you don't have to do something and letting them sit out, Bozeman said teachers and faculty need to identify alternatives to encourage them overcoming anxiety.

For example, if a child is resisting going to lunch, recess or a certain class, teachers should not make special accommodations to get them out of the situation but perhaps offer a new group to sit with and not avoid the situation entirely.

"Not kind of rescuing the child from the situation that causes anxiety because that only further supports and reinforces avoidance which can be carried on later into life," Bozeman said.

WHY EXTRACURRICULARS ARE BENEFICIAL

"When children are involved in extracurriculars it gives them an extra affiliation with the school plus they're fun and in general... we want to stress the parts that are fun. You get to see your friends again, you get to see your favorite teachers, you get to join band again, you get to do your sports," Bozeman said.

Stressing extracurriculars and the fun parts of schools is another way to avoid school anxiety and reduce it.