Kids, School & Anxiety

By Dr. James Feinberg
Child Clinical Psychologist

Have you actually thought about whether or not your child or teen is psychologically prepared to return to school? My hunch is: probably not! Don’t feel bad. Typically, most parents don’t give this transition much thought. Granted, for many kids, this is an uneventful transition. For other kids, this transition back to school is the cause of great anxiety and despair. So, which group does your kid belong to?

To answer this question, a parent must take a trip down memory lane and recall how their child or teen responded to school resuming last year and perhaps, the year before that. Also, what did he say about school resuming in the past? Were his statements riddled with worry and despair, or what you would expect of a kid returning to school? Furthermore, what did his behaviors convey? Was he anxious and agitated, or fairly calm? In other words, unresolved problems occur over and over again until they’re resolved.

On the other hand, before an actual pattern has emerged, parents typically have difficulty determining if their child or teen is really struggling, or merely reacting to situational factors like starting a new school, chemistry of kids in the classroom, and/or a new teacher. The rule of thumb in such situations is that kids and teens should only exhibit temporary and minor adjustment problems, and not ones that persist for several months or longer as well as occur year after year.

Parental factors can also obscure whether or not a child is having significant adjustment problems. Because it’s heart wrenching for parents to admit that their child is struggling, sometimes they miss rather obvious signs of distress. And, when parents finally do see such problems, then, they want to know why versus what action to take.

The bottom line is that some kids may develop psychological problems because of hereditary factors and/or negative learning experiences. Although we can’t do anything about genetics, we can greatly influence how children and teens both think and feel about themselves as well as the world around them. By doing so, we greatly bolster their coping ability as well as their self-esteem. Furthermore, the earlier we intervene, the brighter your child’s future will be. So, be proactive; after all, your kid’s future depends upon it!

And, if unsure if your child or teen is having emotional difficulties, please contact Dr. James Feinberg, child clinical psychologist, and his therapy dog extraordinaire, Grace, at 314-966-0880. www.stlouischildpsychologist.com.