Easing school anxiety in kids

Amy Coplen reads to her kids.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s always a lot of excitement about back to school. Maybe the kids are excited about a new back pack or meeting their new teacher. But for many kids the thought of returning to the classroom brings a lot of anxiety. And that’s not only tough for the child but also the parent.

When it comes to back to school for Northwest Austin mom Amy Coplen she does the usual packing of the bags and lunch.

And for Caroline, 9, and Audrey, 7, the idea of back to school is quite different.

“My oldest loves school. From day one she was ready to run out the door,” said Amy Coplen. “My youngest not so much. It started about half way through summer before kindergarten she said, ‘I don’t want to go to school I don’t want to leave you’ – what do you do about that?”

Amy said she talked to the teacher, counselor and principal to make sure her daughter’s anxiety wasn’t from trouble with school work or friends.

Daughter Audrey said she knows what she wants.

“I want my mommy,” said Audrey Coplen.

According to Dr. Julia Hoke, the Director of Psychological Services at the Austin Guidance Center, that type of behavior is typical.

“I think it’s really common. I’m actually surprised when a child has no anxiety at all about going back to school,” said Dr. Hoke.

Calming the anxiety might be as easy as talking to the child and saying more then, “Don’t worry.”

“A more helpful approach would be to start by acknowledging your kid’s worries and validating and saying things, ‘Of course you’re worried it’s always hard to start something new,'” said Dr. Hoke.

And try to see if the child can come up with a solution to their anxiety.

“What would help you feel calmer about starting school? And sometimes kids have some really good ideas and sometimes as parents we need to suggest things,” said Dr. Hoke.

For Amy – she feels like she’s tried it all with Audrey. And hopes second grade will bring a change.

“So hopefully this will be the year,” said Coplen.

Dr. Hoke recommends parents read books to their kids to calm their fears like Franklin Goes to School or Night Before Kindergarten.

Experts warn parents to not let their own anxiety about the new school year rub off on their child.

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