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Special to The Dallas Examiner

Books and homework and tests, oh my. The fall semester has officially commenced and as families across North Texas adjust to busy schedules, back-to-school jitters might be creeping their way into your home.

Although nerves can be normal, those “butterflies” in a student’s stomach could actually be a sign of anxiety in response to change.

“As kids, teens and young adults head back to the classrooms and lecture halls, they could be experiencing an increase in anxiety,” Parkland Psychologist Natasha Benatti, PsyD, explained. “Having open conversations with your family about these changes can help validate their experiences.”

Returning to a structured environment with expectations surrounding grades and performance can be daunting for some children. Larger transitions such as changing schools, going from middle to high school and making new friends are also triggers for anxiety. Parkland psychologists have recommended paying attention to the way the child speaks about these changes to recognize the areas where they may need some extra support.

Children may not have language to describe the emotions they are experiencing, but parents can keep an eye out for certain behaviors. Things such as irritability, changes in appetite and sleep, complaints of stomach and headaches can all be signs of anxiety, according to Benatti.

To ease the transition, Parkland providers recommend these coping tips:

• Create a safe space for you and your child

• Find ways to meditate and breathe

• Normalize talking to your family about your feelings

• Make brief check-ins as a family

• Have a family conversation and discuss ideas or expectations for the school year

Adjustments in schedules and routines affect the entire family. Parents may also experience nerves when dealing with new schools, teachers and adjustments in child care.           

If adjusting to new circumstances is disrupting the daily routines and the child’s anxiety continues a week or two after school begins, parents should let their primary care provider know. They may refer them to a Parkland Behavioral Health Clinic. Visits are by appointment only. To schedule, call 214-590-5536.

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