Back to School Jitters and When to Seek Counseling for Your Child
The weeks before and after starting a new school year can be very difficult for some children who struggle with anxiety or have experienced traumatic situations at school such as being bullied, and most recently, dealing with safety precautions in case there’s a school shooting! Other circumstances that can increase anxiety in children may be connected to changing schools, starting a new school, and feeling pressured to perform in a certain way socially and academically. Anxiety can also be escalated when changes have taken place at home right before school starts such as parents separating, going through a financial struggle, or losing a family member.
Some kids and teens who struggle with anxiety refuse to go to school or may complain of physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and stomach ache. Others might vomit or get diarrhea. Once they are in school they might repeatedly ask to visit the school nurse or request to be picked up by their parents. Often when the child is allowed to stay at home the physical symptoms get better, only to reappear the next morning! Symptoms usually subside a month or so after school starts but if they continue or increase in duration and intensity, it’s important to address them with a professional.
Here is a list of symptom and early warning signs of depression, anxiety and other disorders that can help you make the decision to get counseling for your child. Early intervention can help delay or prevent a major mental illness altogether. If several of the following are occurring, you may want to follow up with a mental health professional.
· Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in friends and family
· An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, a hobby they used to enjoy, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
· Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that is difficult to explain
· Increased sensitivity — heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations and feeling easily overwhelmed
· Lack of motivation and apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity
· Feeling disconnected — a vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality, like “if it was a movie”
· Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
· Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling
· Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior
· Changes in sleep, weight or appetite — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care
· Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings
· Angry outbursts or inappropriate expression of anger
· Panic attacks
· Fear of being alone
Increased separation anxiety, tantrums, and defiance can be very difficult to deal with. Parents feel frustrated, overwhelmed, powerless, and lost on how to support their child. Counseling can help you learn tools to effectively support your child!