How to deal with back to school anxiety

Published on Friday, August 5, 2022

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Dr. Casey Berson, Child Psychiatrist, Prisma Healthcare

Dr. Casey Berson, Child Psychiatrist, Prisma Healthcare


As kids head back to school, whether in person or at home, many families are feeling stressed because of the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. Child psychiatrist Dr. Casey Berson offered some advice on how to deal with back-to-school anxiety and stress.

“Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and they’re absolutely going to pick up on our own anxieties and our own reactions, so we have to be aware,” said Berson. “If you find that you’re a little bit more anxious, which is completely normal, maybe call your support person after the kids are in school.”

Some tips to make going back to school easier:

  • Make sure your kids are socially connected. This is especially important for kids who are doing at-home learning. Social distancing does not mean social isolation, which can make anxiety worse.
  • Allow appropriate screen time. FaceTime with grandma or with relatives your kids haven’t seen in a while. Allow them to play video games with friends they know.
  • Talk to your kids. Be aware of the information your kids are consuming. Make sure they know what is or isn’t true.
  • Teach safety precautions to kids who are going back to school. Help them learn appropriate hand hygiene and how to wear a mask. If your child is sick, or you yourself are sick, you want to stay at home to protect everyone from COVID-19.

Berson said it’s important for kids to understand they’re not alone in how they feel, and that back-to-school anxiety and stress is common. “Everyone is feeling more anxious right now. There are a lot of people who are not OK, and it’s OK to not be OK.”

How to know if you or your child might need help for depression or anxiety

Berson said sadness is an emotion that comes and goes, but depression is a syndrome that lasts for at least two weeks out of a month.

Warning signs of depression include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling irritable
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless

Warning signs of anxiety include:  

  • Heart palpitations – like your heart is beating really fast.
  • Sweaty palms.
  • A sense of impending doom that something is going to happen and you don’t know what to do.

In these cases, Berson recommends reaching out for professional help, especially if there’s a concern about suicide. “Suicide rates are increasing in both kids and adults, so what you don’t want to do in this pandemic is suffer in silence, because we are here to help you.”



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