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Back-To-School Anxiety: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Transition After Challenging Year

SUMMIT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- How can parents help their children have a healthy transition back to school, not only after summer but from more than a year of unpredictable remote learning?

CBS2's Meg Baker spoke with families and experts to find out.

There is some trepidation about heading back to school five days a week with masks after a challenging year of hybrid learning.

"At lunch time, we basically take off our masks for a short amount of time, staying social distanced, and then once we're done, we put our masks back on," Mia Harrison told Baker.

"It was harder to do tests and things when it's not interactive," seventh grader Eilon Behiri said.

"Somewhat relieved. Also we have our concerns, but we're just glad for routine," said mom Adee Harrison.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the pandemic has created significant trauma for children.

"Parents should encourage their children to speak up if they are feeling overly stressed, anxious or depressed," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

Child psychiatrist Dr. Helen Egger, of Little Otter, told Baker there are three areas to remember when prepping your kids: Practice, regularity and ritual.

"So practice is if you have a chance before school, go visit the school, play on the playground," she said.

Regularity helps kids thrive and reduces anxiety.

"Regular bedtime. Sleep is critical. Regular meal times together. And this isn't just because this is good for your child's health, but also because it's good for your family to be able to know when you're going to be together," said Egger.

Rituals help ease the transition from home to school.

"Have a special, secret way that you say goodbye to each other in the morning. I talked to a family who would give little kisses to put in the pocket," Egger said.

Egger said it's normal to see some worrying or separation anxiety the first two weeks. After that, there may be cause for concern if you see changes in behavior or sleep, having lots of tummy aches or playing sad songs. You may want to seek out resources to help.

Health experts also remind families school should be a supportive environment. Remind your kids school counselors are also there to help.

CBS2's Meg Baker contributed to this report.

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