Back-to-School: How to tell if your kids are feeling anxious about the new school year

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — As the kids begin to head back to school, you may notice some changes in the way your child behaves. It could be signs of anxiety.

A mental health counselor says there are signs to look for and ways to help ease that anxiety at the elementary school level.

For some students, there are more worries in their lives than what outfit to wear on the first day of elementary school.

“For the little ones it’s usually about this is the first time going to school. Maybe they don’t know the school environment in itself. They’ve never had any kind of structure,” said licensed mental health counselor Stephanie Moir of Serene Mind Psychology.

MORE: Submit your Back to School Photos

Moir also says sometimes kids worry about what teacher they’ll have, other students that will be in the class or if they’ll have any new friends.

“Sometimes it’s also just leaving mom and dad for the first time,” said Moir.

Moir wants parents to know there’s a difference between worrying and anxiety.

Parents can watch for red flags that could signal anxiety:

  • Stomach aches
  • Lack of eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner
  • Loss of sleep
  • Night terrors

There are ways that parents can help their kids overcome these hard-gripping fears.

“I would say the first thing you want to do is definitely listen. Take the opportunity to talk about emotions. The emotion of worry is usually associated with anxiety. So you want to give them a chance to learn about different emotions, and that it’s okay to feel things,” suggests Moir, who adds that at the base of all care, there must be lots of love.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports 25 percent of children ages 13 to 18 will develop anxiety in their lifetime. Out of the 25 percent, 5 percent will develop a severe anxiety disorder.

Stephanie Moir of Serene Mind Psychology has a website, blog and Facebook page.

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