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Easing back-to-school anxiety

September 1, 2016
Haadiza Ogwude , MOV Parent

School is quickly approaching, and for many children anxious and depressive feelings are beginning to arise. However, these feelings are completely normal and expected during the transition from summer to the school year. This is especially true for children and teens going back to school, and for children starting kindergarten. This transition is not only stressful for the children, but for the parents too.

Stephen Givens, licensed professional counselor and owner of The Counseling and Wellness Center, said it is common for children to feel a summer "high" when out of school. When school begins, that summer fun comes to an end, leaving children shocked and upset. However, Givens recommends parents establish a routine to help get them used to the idea of going back to school.

Establishing sleep schedules, morning routines, meals, etc. can help ease a child back into the school schedule. Givens said allowing a child to have free reign all summer, can make getting back into the routine and mindset of school, challenging. It can also induce depression or anxiety in a child, because summer is viewed as the "fun time," while school is considered "burdensome." Givens said it is important a child receives a balance between responsibility and fun year round.

"Kids are pretty resilient, they bounce, they do really well with adjustment, if they have a good routine," Givens said.

It's also important to maintain a level of fun during the school year. By planning a weekend long vacation, game night with the family, or just a movie on a Saturday night, this gives children the opportunity to relax and de-stress from a long week of classes and exams. These fun activities could also be used as a positive incentive for kids to try harder in some of their more difficult subjects.

For many children, however, anxiety comes from the more social aspect of school. For this, Givens recommends a social skills camp that will be hosted by The Counseling and Wellness Center. According to Givens, the camp is for children who may need an extra social boost. The camp is for multiple grades. There will also be a specialized camp for children with Asperger's and Autism. For more information, contact The Counseling and Wellness Center at 304-422-7300.

For high school students, especially those in their senior year, the stress of starting school could be due to applying for colleges or figuring out plans post graduation. Lisa Berry, a chemistry and physics teacher at Parkersburg High School and Golden Apple Award recipient, says that although seniors are often excited to start their last year of high school, they are also often anxious about college. Berry said she recommends students do not wait until the last minute to apply for school. A significant amount of research is also recommended, to ensure one is applying to schools that fit their needs.

Berry also stressed the idea of keeping one's field of study in mind when applying. However, students should also be aware that it is okay to change their mind on where they want to go to school or even what they want to study.

"It's important to know that this decision isn't make or break. If it doesn't fit it's okay to transfer," Berry said.

However, when it comes to student anxiety, Berry said she thinks it is important for teachers and administrators to let the students know that they care about them as individuals. Establishing a relationship with a teacher or administrator will not only help to ease the anxiety of a student, but will also provide them with a life long connection that can help them in other ways in the future. As an educator, it is Berry's philosophy that students take ownership of their work. You get what you put in, she said. However, she makes sure all of her students know that she is with them every step of the way.

"If students take ownership of it they will get a lot more out of it, but at the same time, I'm right there beside them," Berry said.

Nonetheless, every child and teen is different, and their reasons for back-to-school anxiety or depression can be influenced by a number of factors. It is important to not only educate children and families on mental health, but to also educate them on where to seek services so they know that they are not alone, Givens said. It is also significant to note that seeking help is not only for children but for everyone. According to Givens, we all need that extra hand or ear to help us through our tough spots, and to help us grow to our full potential.

For more information on anxiety and depression in youth and adolescents, or to make an appointment for your mental health check up, contact The Counseling and Wellness Center at 304-422-7300, or visit their website

Haadiza Ogwude is an intern for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She is a junior at Ohio University, pursuing a degree in journalism and a certification in women, gender and sexuality studies.



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