Back-to-school time can be full of conflicting emotions for children, adolescents, teens, and parents. Some may be sad summer is over, while others feel nervous excitement about the upcoming school year. For many, this time of year brings on uncomfortable stress and anxiety levels.
Whether your child is entering Kindergarten or their senior year of high school, it’s understandable why they’d be wrought with emotion. As a parent or caregiver, you must validate and support their feelings with compassion and understanding.
But sometimes those feelings and emotions are more than just back-to-school jitters. Back-to-school stress sometimes brings to surface underlying feelings of anxiety and depression; if left untreated, this can lead to further problems down the line. It’s important to know if your child needs help from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and support to ensure your child’s well-being.
Introducing Theodore Germanos, MD: Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at BOLD Health
“I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from a little therapy. Kids who participate in therapy are better equipped when facing life’s challenges. At the least, having another person ‘in their corner’ can boost their self-esteem, personal growth, and social development.
Therapy becomes especially important when going through a difficult time or struggling with depression, anxiety, or other behavioral and mental health concerns.”
– Dr. Theodore Germanos, BOLD Health Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in San Diego
Dr. Germanos, like all clinicians at BOLD Health, understands the value of treating the whole person. When he works with your child, he is able to appreciate the uniqueness, specific needs, and life experiences of each individual child.
When developing a successful treatment plan for your child, it is key that we work together as a team. Collaboration as a team often goes beyond working with parents/guardians, also including teachers/schools, therapists, and pediatricians in order to provide the highest quality care. Your child’s treatment plan will not be a “same as everyone, cookie-cutter approach”, but rather is tailored to their specific needs.
It may include:
- talk therapy
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- mindfulness and meditation
- play therapy
- medication management (when beneficial)
Common Causes of Back-To-School Stress
There are many reasons why your child may experience back-to-school stress. Even the most “easy-going” child and teen can struggle with the adjustment to their return to school. Some of the most common causes of back-to-school stress include the following:
- Separation Anxiety: Younger children might feel separation anxiety when they start going to school after being at home during the summer. They miss their parents and family.
- New Environment: Starting a new grade or school often means unfamiliar surroundings, teachers, classmates, and routines. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
- Academic Pressure: As children progress through school, academic expectations may increase. The fear of not performing academically well can lead to stress.
- Social Pressure:Young children may feel anxious about making friends and fitting in with their peers. The desire to be accepted and liked can be a significant stressor.
- Peer Relationships: Bullying, conflicts with classmates, and peer pressure can cause stress. Young children are learning to interact and manage emotions, making these difficulties more significant.
- Homework and Time Management: Homework and time management can cause stress for kids and parents when balancing school, activities, and play.
- Transitioning Routines: Moving from a laid-back summer schedule to a structured school routine can be tough for some kids. Waking up early, following a schedule, and adhering to school rules might cause stress.
- Performance Expectations: Children might worry about meeting their parents’ or teachers’ expectations, including academic achievements, behavior, and participation in various activities.
- Transitioning to a New Grade: Moving up to a higher grade means more expectations, new subjects, and harder work. This might make some children feel overwhelmed.
- Fear of the Unknown: Not knowing what to expect in the new school year or anticipating unfamiliar challenges can contribute to stress.
- Pressure to Excel: Children might feel pressured to excel in various areas, whether in academics, sports, or other talents, which can lead to performance anxiety.
Tips for Navigating Back-To-School Stressors
“At the core, communication, reassurance, discussing worries, and helping children build coping skills can all contribute to a smoother transition back to school.
Evidence shows that children with at least one positive adult figure in their lives have better long-term outcomes in their overall physical and mental health. Just being there to support your child goes a long way.”
-Dr. Theodore Germanos, BOLD Health Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist in San Diego
As a parent, navigating back-to-school stressors can be difficult. It requires understanding, patience, and effort. Some ways that you can effectively support your child during this time:
- Open Communication: Create an open and non-judgmental space for your child to share their thoughts and concerns about going back to school. Encourage them to express their feelings, worries, and excitement.
- Listen Actively: When your child talks about their stressors, listen attentively without immediately offering solutions. Sometimes, they need someone to listen and validate their feelings.
- Validate Emotions: Let your child know their feelings are valid and normal. Offer reassurance that feeling anxious or stressed about the upcoming school year is okay.
- Establish Routines: Transitioning from a summer schedule to a school routine can be challenging. Start adjusting bedtime and wake-up times gradually to help your child adapt more smoothly.
- Visit the School: If possible, visit the school with your child before it starts. Familiarity with the environment can alleviate anxiety about the new setting.
- Positive Reinforcement: Focus on the positive aspects of returning to school, such as reuniting with friends, learning new things, and engaging in extracurricular activities.
- Empower Decision-Making: Involve your child in decisions related to school supplies, clothing, and other aspects of back-to-school preparations. This can give them a sense of control.
- Encourage Self-Care: Teach your child about self-care practices, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or taking breaks when feeling overwhelmed. These techniques can help them manage stress.
- Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Help your child break down larger tasks, like organizing school supplies or completing assignments, into smaller, manageable steps to reduce overwhelm.
- Plan Playdates: Organize playdates with classmates or friends before school starts to help your child reconnect with peers and feel more comfortable about social interactions.
- Collaborate with Teachers: Establish open communication with your child’s teachers. They can provide insights into your child’s behavior and academic progress, allowing you to work together to address challenges.
- Limit Over-Scheduling: While extracurricular activities are beneficial, be mindful not to overwhelm your child with too many commitments, especially at the start of the school year.
- Celebrate Achievements: Acknowledge your child’s accomplishments, whether big or small. This boosts their self-esteem and encourages them to take on challenges.
- Stay Calm: If your child senses your stress, it can exacerbate their own anxiety. Stay calm and composed, modeling effective stress management techniques.
Remember that every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Adjust how you handle the back-to-school change based on your child’s personality, needs, and preferences. It’s important to be patient with them. Your help can really help them handle stress and do well in school and thrive emotionally.
How to Recognize If Your Child Needs Child and Adolescent Therapy
“The biggest thing to remember is that kids are not ‘mini adults.’ A depressed child may not appear the same way an adult appears when depressed.
It’s also crucial to understand that depression is more than just sadness. When you notice significant changes in behavior in short periods of time or an increase in problems with daily functions, it’s time to consider seeing a professional for further evaluation.
You know your child best, so you should trust that feeling if something is off. You can’t go wrong with seeking help to ensure your child lives a healthy and happy life.”
-Dr. Theodore Germanos, BOLD Health Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist in San Diego
Experiencing ups and downs in emotions is not uncommon for children and adolescents. However, when it comes to anxiety and depression – these are more serious problems that often require intervention from a child and adolescent psychiatrist or therapist. Therapy is one of the most essential factors in successful treatment.
Indications your child may benefit from therapy include:
- Persistent Symptoms: If your child is experiencing persistent symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other emotional difficulties that last for several weeks or more, professional help may be beneficial.
- Interference with Daily Life: If the emotional challenges your child is facing are significantly affecting their daily life, academic performance, relationships, or overall functioning, therapy could be helpful.
- Behavioral Changes: Sudden and noticeable behavioral changes, such as social withdrawal, irritability, aggressiveness, or extreme mood swings, can be indicators of underlying emotional struggles.
- Significant Life Changes: Events like a divorce, a loss of a loved one, moving to a new school, or other major life changes can impact a child’s emotional well-being and might warrant therapeutic support.
- Academic Difficulties: If your child’s academic performance suddenly declines or if they consistently struggle with school-related stress, a therapist can help them develop coping strategies and address potential underlying issues.
- Physical Symptoms: Complaints of unexplained physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or frequent illnesses could be related to emotional stress.
- Sleep Disturbances: Persistent sleep problems, whether difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing nightmares, can indicate emotional distress.
- Isolation or Avoidance: If your child is isolating themselves from friends, family, or social activities they once enjoyed, therapy can help address any underlying issues contributing to their withdrawal.
- Regression: Noticeable regression in behaviors or skills, such as bedwetting, thumb-sucking, or loss of previously acquired language skills, might be linked to emotional difficulties.
- Excessive Worry: If your child constantly expresses excessive worries, fears, or phobias that interfere with their ability to engage in age-appropriate activities, therapy can provide tools to manage their anxiety.
- Self-Harm or Suicidal Thoughts: If your child talks about hurting themselves or thinking about suicide, it’s important to get them help right away.
- Loss of Interest: If your child no longer enjoys things they used to or avoids socializing, therapy can help them find their interests again and overcome social barriers.
- Communication Breakdown: If you’re having trouble talking to your child or they don’t want to share, a child therapist can help. They provide a safe place for your child to express themselves.
If you notice any of these signs or if your parental instincts suggest something serious is going on, it’s a good idea to consult with a mental health professional. Remember, seeking help early from a child psychiatrist in San Diego can lead to more effective intervention and better long-term outcomes for your child.
Partner With Dr. Theodore Germanos as Your Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in San Diego
We’re so excited to welcome Dr. Germanos to our BOLD Health team as our own child and adolescent psychiatrist. His education, experience, and knowledge make him a valuable asset to our facility and your family.
At BOLD Health, we are passionate about providing top-notch treatment for adults and now children and adolescents. Dr. Germanos works with children five years old to early adulthood and is accepting new patients.