Back to school anxiety? Experts share how to put your child at ease

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Traditionally the start of a school year is an exciting time for both parents and students, but this year the pandemic has cast a shadow over back to school.

Dr. Matthew Kleban, medical director for child and adolescent inpatient care at Rogers Behavioral Health, says some kids will be better equipped to deal with the changes than others.

“I do think it’s going to create some adjustments in the routines for both kids and parents and probably some anxieties as well,” he said.

Dr. Kleban says to help your child be at ease for the first day of class, start some good habits now, set a routine for sleep, diet and exercise.

“Kids will respond better if they are prepared, they’ll respond better to the uncertainty if they’re prepared,” he said.

Some kids may be out of the habit of interacting with classmates and teachers, which could lead to social anxiety. Dr. Kleban thinks parents should not wait to get them some practice, but in a way that is COVID-safe.

“Maybe wearing a mask, maybe social distanced, but doing that a little more, I think it’s going to help them feel relaxed.”

The pandemic itself is a source of stress. Doctor Gregory DeMuri, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist for UW Health, says while it is rarer to see kids hospitalized than adults, it is happening at an alarming rate.

“The reports we’re getting from around the country right now during this delta outbreak is that down south, many of the pediatric ICUs are quite overloaded with children who are sick,” DeMuri said.

Local school boards are trying to find the best way to keep students and staff safe. If your child’s school will have a mask mandate, now may be the time to get that child used to wearing a mask.

“Maybe for an hour a day, maybe while they’re watching TV or something,” Dr. Kleban said.

If your child is worried about catching or spreading the virus, reassure them that their school is working hard to keep them safe.

“I think you want to talk to them openly and honestly, I think that will help them feel more in control,” Dr. Kleban said.

Preparation is key. Dr. Kleban says patience and a positive attitude are important as well.

“We need to probably be a little bit understanding that it’s going to take some time for kids to be comfortable in that situation,” he said.

Here are some warning signs from Rogers Behavioral Health that your child’s anxiety is getting serious:

Here are other tips for parents to help kids manage anxiety: 

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