Easy steps parents can take to help kids cope with anxiety before going back to school

TAMPA, Fla. — As kids prepare to go back to school, it is common for them to feel a few jitters.

Experts say for some children, the condition is far more serious. Persistent anxiety may show up in the form of stomach aches, headaches and even panic attacks.

Symptoms of panic attacks include a racing heart, sweaty palms and dizziness.

Dr. Valerie McClain, a Tampa-based child psychologist, has seen this happen to children as they head back to school.

"Getting more sickness like physically, like their tummy hurts," McClain said. "Headaches, to the point of where they don't want to get up and go to school. They may call from school and go to the nurse's station and call and say I've got to come home."

For younger children, McClain says anxiety can revolve around leaving home and being around older kids.

Middle and high school students, the anxiety can result from being liked by their peers, having the right clothes and performance on tests and schoolwork.

McClain recommends helping children feel prepared for school for having things like clothing, backpacks and supplies packed ahead of time so kids can have the confidence to know that they have what they need to succeed.

Younger kids can also have a little stuffed animal placed in their backpack or can wear a bracelet to help remind them of parents and having a link to home.

For children coping with physical symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks, McClain says it is good for parents to help talk their kids through it.

"What are you feeling?" McClain recommends asking kids. "Why are you feeling that? What's causing it? Just some basics and then to help them to problem solve to have options on how to cope with it."

She says breathing techniques can also be helpful for kids dealing with anxiety.

'Just breathing in and breathing out," McClain said. "I've taught clients and young children to clench their fists and hold your breath if you get tense and then blow it out."

She says this can help anchor children in calm and help them move forward.

McClain also recommends helping kids have a private, quiet space somewhere, like a bedroom, to help them calm down.

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