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Helping Kids Deal With Back To School Anxiety

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the state's largest school district with 334,000 students, is back in business today. While it is exciting that in-person learning has returned to all public schools, it can also be a source of anxiety for some students who are heading back to class for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

"Sort of excited, but I was also nervous because it's my first day in high school and I gotta get used to the new schedule and everything," said Cypress Bay High School Diego Noguera.

On top of those first-day jitters, some students may be facing the extra challenge of anxiety.

"After 18 months of isolation, coming back into the schoolhouse is going to be different," said Frank Zenere, district coordinator of the M-DCPS' Crisis Management Program.

He says it's important to take extra steps this year to prep for students who might be anxious coming back to school.

"Some of the steps that we're moving into involve professional development activities for teachers, as well as our school mental health professionals, to give them strategies for processing that anxiety."

Some of those strategies include grief groups and support sessions in some schools.

A survey by the National Institute for Early Education Research at the end of last year, looked at impacts from the pandemic on young children and their parents.

It found "children lost learning opportunities both at home and in preschool programs." The survey said, "not surprisingly, parents reported unusually high rates of social, emotional, or mental health problems for their young children."

"We're all really trying to navigate unchartered territory," said clinical therapist Dr. Joshua Estrin.

In addition to being a clinical therapist, he's also the author of a new book 'Shut Up and Listen to Yourself 2.0.'

"We need to be aware that the world has changed exponentially so some things to look for would be a fear of separation, withdrawal, or avoidant behavior, nervousness or worry," he explained.

Dr. Estrin said parents should also be on the lookout for regressive behaviors or changes in their child's eating and sleeping habits.

As your kids head back to the classroom in a still unprecedented world, routine is important and so are conversations.

And parents, remember your kids are paying attention.

"For students entering school, they may reflect the emotions of their parents or guardians, so if you, mom or dad, are anxious yourself, try to control it in front of your children," cautioned Zenere.

Other helpful tips include getting your kids into a routine early and getting involved with extracurriculars at school can help ease the transition process.

If your child's anxiety or behavior problems continue or become severe, talk to a healthcare professional.

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