For some of the country school has been in session for a week or two, but September brings the reality of school for all. So I was not surprised to listen to my voicemails recently only to hear numerous messages relating to the return to school.
One of the predominate themes I heard was, “my child seems anxious about school”. Interestingly, the voice mails related not only to young children who might be starting school for the first time, but there were also several calls relating to adolescents in junior high and high school. The “worry” that some children experience as they return to school after 10 -12 weeks of “down time” occurs quite frequently.
Many of us, even adults, get the “butterflies in the tummy” feeling when embarking on a new situation. Whether it be a new school year, or a new job, along with anticipation and excitement might come a bit of anxiety. At times the anxiety may present itself as a tummy ache, headache, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite or even lethargy.
Everyone responds to anxiety a bit differently. But many times these symptoms go hand in hand with feeling anxious. These feelings are not wanted or planned, but result from our mind/body interaction as neurotransmitters in our brains may produce outright symptoms in our bodies.
There will be many children who have a mystery headache or tummy ache for several days, maybe even several weeks, as the routine of a new school year begins. For most of our children these feelings will pass with a little TLC (tender loving care), some of my young parents don’t know what this acronym means. For other children the symptoms may be a little longer lasting and the school nurse might offer her own version of TLC, with a few minutes of rest, or a glass of juice, some reassurance and return to class. The school counselor may also lend an ear to an older student who just needs some talk time in order to become less anxious.
But for a few, the symptoms do not pass and the anxiety surrounding school may even start to affect other activities. This is especially disconcerting when it seems to involve activities that a child had previously enjoyed, such as dance, or sports or even spending the night with a friend. In these cases it may be time to discuss your child’s anxiety with your pediatrician. There are numerous professionals that can help your child with anxiety. So, give the back to school routine a bit of time, but at the same time if things are not improving, do not hesitate to call for outside help.
I'm Dr. Sue and that’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.