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Tips to Ease Back to School Anxiety

Tips to Ease Back-to-School Anxiety 

 Most of us thrive on routine. In fact, studies have shown that daily routines have significant mental health benefits, ranging from decreasing stress, to lessening symptoms of behavior disorders, or even reducing the chances of substance abuse. Unfortunately, summer—although fun and relaxing—is often filled with vacations, lax schedules and irregular sleep patterns. Add in the element of unknown that the upcoming school year brings and it’s a recipe for increased stress and anxiety. Luckily, there are plenty of tips for both kids and caregivers to help ease worries and set the stage for a successful school year.  

 Determine New Schedules 

A new school year can often mean new start and end times, new bus schedules, as well as new activities. Caregivers should start planning early to determine how new school schedules will work within the family’s overall schedule. Do the start and end times of school days align with work schedules? Will you need before or after school care? Will kids need rides to or from activities? Getting a jump start on can help you think through all the scheduling needs, potential concerns, and line up any required support.  

 Tip: Don’t take everything on alone—ask for help. Whether it’s family support, friends, other parents or tapping into school services, dividing, and conquering is the key to keeping the stress of scheduling under control.  

 Get Organized 

You’ve received your schedules and purchased the school supplies… now what? With assignments, announcements and other information often distributed digitally on multiple different platforms, finding the best system can be a tough task even for the most organized person. The first step is to know how you and your child work best. You may do better writing things down on a wall calendar to keep everything straight. But your kids may prefer online calendars, apps or personal assistants like Alexa or Google to set tasks, reminders, and appointments. Once you determine your styles you can find the best (and often multiple) ways for everyone to keep their schedules and studies straight and organized – whether it’s digital, analog – or a combination!  

 Tip:  It takes 21 days to form a new habit, and the same goes for a routine. If you set and stick to a new organization plan for three weeks, there’s a good chance you’ll stick to it for the rest of the school year… and beyond.  

 Focus on Sleep  

Forgetfulness. Difficulty concentrating. Hyperactivity. Impulsiveness. These are behaviors commonly associated with ADHD… but did you know that they can also simply be signs of lack of sleep? With back-to-school season in full swing, it’s more important than ever to set up a healthy sleep schedule to ensure that the whole family has a seamless transition from the summer to the school year.  

 Tip: Start adjusting bedtimes a few weeks before school begins, if possible. If you can’t ease back into modified bedtimes, adding a new calming bedtime routine can help. Limit digital screentime before bed, take a bath with calming essential oils, or try reading a book to help you get some much-needed rest. 

 Talk it Out 

It may sound overly simple, but sometimes just expressing your feelings and concerns can relieve stress. Kids often struggle with transitions and change because it’s a big unknown. Breaking down the big worry (CHANGE) into smaller, more manageable parts (How will I get to school? What will I wear? Who will be my teacher? Will I have friends in class?) as well as getting their thoughts and buy-in on new organizational plans and bedtimes, can help ease their anxieties (and ultimately yours too).  

 Tip: Back-to-school jitters and anxiety can be normal, but there are some signs to look for that can alert you to a more serious problem that warrants professional attention. 

 “If a child’s fears or anxiety are so often or so intense that they can’t participate or enjoy typical activities – or if the anxiety symptoms last beyond the first few weeks of the school year, it’s a good idea to set an appointment for an early childhood mental health consultation or youth mental health services,” said OhioGuidestone School Consultant, Regina Underdown.  

“You can also look for additional signs, such as difficulty getting along with others, avoiding normal activities or physical symptoms like stomachaches, which can be clues that your child is struggling and should be evaluated by a professional,” added Underdown. 

 Reconnect Physically and Emotionally 

Likely you and your kids are not alone in feeling anxious about the new school year—so are other peers and parents. For that reason, most schools offer open house opportunities prior to the start of the year. This is a great way to physically get your child acquainted with their school environment. They can visit their classrooms, rehearse their daily routine, ask about supplies needed and where to store them – or anything else that could be weighing on anyone’s mind. It can also offer an opportunity to meet with teachers, administrators, or guidance counselors to build a rapport with adults they can turn to with questions or concerns during the school day.  

 In addition to visiting the school, help your kids reconnect with classmates (or for you their parents and caregivers) that you may have lost touch with over the summer. Not only will this help rekindle friendships, but it can also offer a peer to talk about any worries they may have. And while you’re there, you might want to chat with their parents too! 

 Tip: Don’t assume you know what they’re worried about – ask them! You might be surprised or never guessed what was making them anxious about back to school. Plus, frequent worries, such as ‘How will I open my locker combination?’ ‘How will I find my classroom?’ or ‘What is for lunch?’ can easily be relieved by doing some research or practice run-throughs.   

 You’re Not Alone 

With these few tips, hopefully you’ll enjoy a back-to-school season with reduced worries and anxieties. But if you or your child is struggling, know that you’re not alone. OhioGuidestone offers a wealth of mental health and counseling services—from early childhood to youth to adult that can get you and your family on the path to success.    

What school services can do for your child | OhioGuidestone

James is a young student going to a Cleveland school with a bright personality and an even brighter future. First seeing him come down the hall, his laughter and energy will greet you well before he makes his way up to you with energetic steps and a smile from ear to ear. He loves puzzles, games and fun facts about everything you can imagine.   

Like many students across Ohio, James sees an OhioGuidestone counselor right in school. The two are starting their second year of counseling and meet up every week to discuss James’ school life, his dreams and his goals.   

Counseling has given James a chance to come out of his shell. His mom, Miriam, signed him up thinking it would be mentally and emotionally beneficial. And the work is paying off.  

“He’s a lot more vocal about emotions now. He’s a lot more outgoing.”    

James isn’t the only kid benefitting from counseling services in school. Many children throughout the state have found renewed confidence, emotional stability, and a better grasp on expressing themselves thanks to parents signing them up for school mental health services.   

Drug prevention, anger management, depression and anxiety counseling and more are all vitally needed resources at too many schools. OhioGuidestone is committed to providing mental and behavioral care for as many kids as possible, which is why we offer so many services at school, where kids can make mental care a part of their day.  

When a child or teen needs services, their school might be the most convenient or vital location to get those programs. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable discussing issues at home, or perhaps the issue relates to school, and they can better articulate the problem while they are there. Or maybe it just makes more sense with mom or dad’s schedule. Whatever the reason, in-school services can be extremely helpful in delivering mental and emotional care for a child right at the place they spend most of their time.   

James smiles as he and his counselor play a game together
James smiles as he and his counselor play a game together. Photo by Bryan Heraghty

OhioGuidestone has a myriad of services we offer to meet the needs of each special child we interact with. That includes offering services in schools across Ohio, both one-on-one meetings with counselors or group sessions. Some of our services you can find below:  

Counseling 

School counselors are finding an ever-increasing need for therapy for students of all ages. More and more requests from parents for child and teen counseling are being made each day, especially following the pandemic. OhioGuidestone offers services which allow students to meet with counselors during the day for regularly scheduled hours. Several districts now offer these services, and the results are encouraging.   

Support Groups 

Support groups for kids and teens are also becoming more common. Emergency counseling services following a tragedy that impacts a community (such as a school shooting, death of a student, etc.) can be a great benefit to helping young people cope and process with the emotional impact of these life-changing events.   

When a counselor is brought into a school after a tragic event in Ohio, that counselor is often from OhioGuidestone. Many schools already have our counselors in them on a regular schedule to be available for kids in the school who need someone to talk to and assess behavioral health problems.   

Suicide Prevention 

The last decade has seen a rise in suicidal thoughts among teens, and the isolation experienced during the pandemic has worsened that. OhioGuidestone’s counselors provide vital emotional and mental aid to kids and teens experiencing suicidal thoughts, as well as treating the emotional needs of students and staff following the loss of their peers.   

Substance Abuse Prevention 

Educating and empowering kids and teens to avoid harmful substances like alcohol and drugs is another important part of OhioGuidestone’s mission in school. Our drug and alcohol prevention programs educate thousands of young minds about the dangers of abusing these substances, and tactics to avoid finding themselves in pressuring social situations. The programs are conducted by certified prevention specialists and tailored to fit the needs of the community. Some communities have a particular kind of drug or alcohol problem and tailoring the program to combat those needs makes them all the more effective.   

How these services make an impact 

These services together make an incredible impact on the lives of students. Counseling has been shown to boost their confidence, help deal with issues like anxiety and depression, improve their ability to handle conflict, and finding more fulfillment in their lives. For some kids, that means being better able to handle emotionally tumultuous situations. For others, Like James, that means forming a bond with a counselor and finding a joyful way to spend an afternoon.   

Our many services gives kids like James options for what kind of care they need, and how they go about it. While we offer all these services in school, we also offer a number of services for outpatients and at-home as well.   

Since completing his first year, James is ready to move on to the second.   

James and a counselor do an exploding fist bump
James and a counselor do an exploding fist bump. Photo by Bryan Heraghty

James gets to see his counselor every week. They play games and have fun in school. Playing games and socializing with counselors is a great way for kids and teens to feel a greater sense of trust with their counselors, and start opening up. Miriam says James is now more independent and completes tasks on his own too. He brushes his teeth without needing to be told to and is expressing himself more often.  

Seeing James as his mother and he skipped down the hallway and around the corner brought home the importance of OhioGuidestone’s services. The large-scale services and programs are important, but the true benefits are in sights like that: Seeing James carefree skipping away, letting his heart dictate how he felt. It’s what emotional growth is all about. It’s something people of all ages can strive to have. And it’s something we aim to give to as many people as we can.   

Take time to live like James today, go where your feet skip you. 

James, his counselor and his mother skip down the hall away form the camera
James, his counselor and his mother skip down the hall. Photo by Bryan Heraghty

FOX 8 News: Puppets Wally & Molly Help Ease Back to School Fears

As some schools in the state prepare to welcome kids back into the classroom this fall, the safety measures in place can be scary for young students.

Our friends Wally and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, Melinda Falconi, recently appeared on Cleveland’s Fox 8 News In The Morning to discuss how to ease those fears.

Here is the interview with Fox 8’s Kristi Capel.

10TV: Anxiety For Parents Over Back to School Plans

The upcoming school year will be very different for many kids, and for parents! 10TV in Columbus spoke with OhioGuidestone Regional Director and licensed professional clinical counselor Wendy BeMiller regarding the anxieties those parents are facing.

Watch and read more from WBNS.

19 News: How Wally and Molly Are Helping Kids

OhioGuidestone is using a pair of friendly puppets, Wally and Molly, to make a potentially scary situation, not so for little ones. The puppets are helping kids get ready to head back to school or day care.

Here is the story from WOIO 19 News in Cleveland.

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