Licensed psychologist offers advice for back-to-school anxiety in students

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 5:05 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - As kids and families prepare to head back to school this week, the change in routine can sometimes be met with heightened anxiety.

“Anytime you make a change in your life, some anxiety is normal,” said Dr. David Prescott, a licensed psychologist in the Bangor area.

Dr. Prescott says a little anxiety can be good to help you focus and stay motivated.

But, when it gets too big or lasts too long, that’s when it can become a barrier to getting started with the school year.

“With the really young kids, it’s actually pretty common to get a little bit of separation anxiety at this stage. So that’s just the newness of the situation and trying to get used to a group of people in a place you’re not familiar with. But the pandemic and its extension, just seems to have raised the baseline level of anxiety across kids both diagnose conditions and more than they want,” Prescott said.

Prescott says the best thing you can do as a parent is listen.

“If you think your kid is anxious or struggling, is ask them how they’re doing, and then bite your lower lip and be quiet, right? I think as parents we want to solve things really fast. Your kid will often tell you what it is,” Prescott said. “Before you jump in with your advice, it’s really helpful to ask a kid so what do you think we might do about this? Right often kids have thought of a solution. They just need you to say that’s a good idea,” he said.

He says in the wake of the pandemic and recent school shootings, students of all ages might be feeling increased levels of anxiety heading back to school.

“I usually ask again, parents, you got to ask what do you see and what are people talking about? Just get as much information as you can. You gotta be ready to talk when your kids are ready to talk. It’s particularly true of teens. So, if they start to talk, whatever’s going on, try to keep it going,” Prescott said.

Prescott says if you notice the feelings of anxiety are continuing or getting worse it could be time to reach out to a mental health professional.

“I often say mental health disorders are like concrete, the longer you let it set, the harder it is to chip away when you go and try to do something about it,” Prescott said.

He says as a parent it’s equally as important to get yourself centered before talking to your kids.

“If you take care of yourself, right and you’re pretty calm going into a difficult discussion, you’re going to be so much better,” Prescott said.