How to Manage Kids’ Anxiety About Going Back to School After COVID
Even in a typical school year, there’s a buzz of nervous energy at back to school time. New teachers, unfamiliar classrooms and fresh faces are exciting but also daunting. With the collective trauma of COVID-19 fresh in everyone’s minds, no one is quite sure what to expect at school this fall.
Some children may be excited about returning to school. Others may feel anxious about being behind on academics or feel social anxiety if they’ve been isolated for months.
If you’re worried about your child’s mental health when school starts this year, you’re not alone. Here are some ways to support kids through this unprecedented transition.
Fact: children’s mental health got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic
“Goodnight moon. Goodnight Zoom. Goodnight sense of impending doom.”
The viral meme during the early months of the pandemic said it all. A year and a half later, kids are still working through the feelings of unease and insecurity that came with the 2020-2021 school year.
“Kids have had extended exposure to chaos, crisis and uncertainty,” child psychiatrist Matt Biel told NPR. “If kids don’t return to school and get a lot of attention paid to security, safety, predictability and re-establishing of strong, secure relationships, [they] are not gonna be able to make up ground academically.”
Even before the pandemic, American children and adolescents were struggling with mental health. According the CDC, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 (approximately 4.4 million kids) had diagnosed anxiety disorders and 3.2% (approximately 1.9 million) had diagnosed depression. These numbers have increased over time.
A recent report from the American Psychological Association found that GenZ teens (ages 13-17) are facing “unprecedented uncertainty, experiencing elevated stress and already reporting symptoms of depression.”
ABC News reported the CDC’s findings that mental health-related visits to the ER among 12-to-17-year-olds increased 31% from 2019 to 2020. Visits for suspected suicide attempts in girls were 50.6% higher during Feb. 21-Mar. 20, 2020, than during that same period in 2019.
How do kids show signs of anxiety?
Children show symptoms of anxiety and stress in different ways. Some have a reduced appetite, talk less, act nervous, feel butterflies in the stomach, have angry outbursts, can’t focus or have problems sleeping. Physical signs of anxiety can include rashes, runny nose, stomach aches, anxiety attacks, wetting the bed and more.
Self-care tips to help children manage anxiety
The CDC recommends the following self-care tips to manage child anxiety or depression:
- Have a healthy eating plan centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds.
- Participate in physical activity each day based on age.
- Get the recommend amount of sleep each night based on age.
- Practice mindfulness or relaxation techniques.
Eat healthy for back to school success
It’s a good idea to cut kids’ daily sugar intake, especially if they’re prone to stress, to give their adrenals a break.
Sam Adkins, known as The Homeopathic Coach, says, “Anxiety makes the adrenals work as it causes over-production of both cortisol and adrenaline amongst other hormones. The adrenal glands also have to work hard with a diet high in sugar.”
She suggests snacks that contain protein as an alternative to sugar-laden treats. Nuts, seeds, hummus with carrot sticks, eggs, meat and fish are good choices to balance kids’ blood sugar and support the adrenals.
Vitamin B, vitamin C and magnesium also help support the nervous system, promote calmness and support adrenal glands.
Talk about stress with your kids
Prioritize open communication with anxious children to see how they’re feeling. As you listen, validate their feelings and stay positive and calm. Make sure your child knows these feelings are normal and common. Remind them they’ll feel better once they get used to being back at school.
Try repeating what your child is communicating to you: “I can tell you feel really stressed right now.” Ask if there’s anything they’d like to talk about.
Kids may not always want to talk to mom or dad, but they will like knowing you’re there if they need you.
What if eating right and talking things through aren’t enough?
There are pharmaceuticals to help with anxiety and depression, but many parents seek other options. Psychiatric medications have well-known negative side effects, including depression, anxiety, suicide, violence, insomnia and more.
A safe, natural approach to helping kids manage stress can include homeopathic medicines and herbal remedies.
Here are some of our favorites:
Natural medicines for mood, nerves and emotions
An herbal supplement for brain balance and harmonized mood. Contains St. John’s Wort, Gotu kola and other herbs.
A homeopathic medicine for supporting a reasonable attitude and pleasant disposition. Helps temporarily reduce temper outbursts and irritability.
A natural remedy spray for relief of anxiousness, nervousness and emotional tension. Supports nervous system function and calm.
Natural remedy for better sleep
An herbal supplement for restful, peaceful nights. Promotes calmness and harmony. Contains valerian, along with melatonin and 5-HTP, two nutrients needed for night-time peacefulness and rest.
Natural medicines for mental focus, hyperactivity and attention problems
A homeopathic medicine for symptoms of attention deficit, distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Helps address adapting to changes in routine.
An herbal supplement for improved attentiveness, memory and focus. Promotes a balanced mood to support concentration and mental clarity.
Natural remedies for mental alertness and studying
A homeopathic medicine for mental fatigue, forgetfulness and problems concentrating or staying alert. Promotes alertness, memory and systemic balance.
An herbal supplement with Gotu kola herb for concentration and memory function. Promotes clear focus for study habits and supports brain function.
You’re the best role model for your child
Back to school transitions affect the whole family. Getting back into a morning routine, managing after-school activities and planning meals adds stress for parents, too, especially if you were home during the pandemic but no longer stay home.
Stress depletes the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections, viruses, and other health problems.
“To me, the most important thought about going back to school is that parents lead the charge. If you lead with your own anxiety, you’re only going to fuel anxiety,” says Rachel Busman, PsyD, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute.
Kids take cues from parents and caregivers. Make sure you’re managing your own stress and anxiety so you can help your child. Together, you can help your child have the best possible first day of school and a successful 2021-2022 school year.
ZZZZ…Why You Need a Good Night’s Sleep https://nativeremedies.blog/2020/10/01/zzzzwhy-you-need-a-good-nights-sleep/
5 Herbs for Stress and Anxiety https://nativeremedies.blog/2020/09/14/5-herbs-for-stress-and-anxiety/
Kids Worry, Should You? https://nativeremedies.blog/2019/09/01/kids-worry-should-you/
- Herman, C. and Turner, C. “How Schools Can Help Kids Heal After A Year Of ‘Crisis And Uncertainty.’” NPR. Accessed July 13, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/04/21/989056927/how-schools-can-help-kids-heal-after-a-year-of-crisis-and-uncertainty
- “Stress in America: One Year Later, A New Wave of Pandemic Health Concerns.” American Psychological Association. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2021/sia-pandemic-report.pdf
- Mueller, Christina. “Homeopathy For Stressed-Out School Kids.” Homeopathy & You, December 2018, p. 17. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.magzter.com/stories/Health/Homeopathy-You/Homeopathy-For-Stressed-Out-School-Kids
- Miller, Caroline. “Back-to-School Anxiety During Covid: How to help kids handle fears and gain independence.” Child Mind Institute. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://childmind.org/article/back-to-school-anxiety-during-covid/
- “5 Tips to Ease Back-to-School Anxiety.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-tips-to-ease-backtoschool-anxiety
- “Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts.” Centers for Disease Control. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html
- “Why a focus on mental health is essential for students returning to school in the fall, experts say.” ABC News. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/focus-mental-health-essential-students-returning-school-fall/story?id=78564028
- Adkins, Sam. “Solve Back To School Anxiety with Homeopathy.” The Homeopathic Coach. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.thehomeopathiccoach.com/solve-back-school-anxiety-homeopathy/