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Psychologist Offers Tips For Coping With Back-To-School Anxiety

By Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The school year is right around the corner. Not only is it a busy time for parents and their children but one that can trigger some worries from kids.

"The return to school gives rise to understandable anxiety in children," says Dr. Katherine Dahlsgaard, lead psychologist of the Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "It signifies the end of summer fun and relaxation which, let's face it, is a drag."

Families have to deal with back-to-school shopping, readjusting sleep schedules and other issues, including the fear of the unknown for children. They may ask themselves whether their new teacher will be nice to them, or how they will get along with kids in a new class, or whether they will be able to handle an increased homework load.

"One of the keys to a successful life is learning to see the advantages inherent in difficult situations," Dahlsgaard said. "The back-to-school process can be viewed as an excellent opportunity to practice anxiety-busting skills."

One of the first tips Dahlsgaard gives is for parents to stay calm about the back-to-school process. She said your children will then follow your lead. "If you are able to laugh about this and remain optimistic you really do give your child the message that this is something that is rife with excitement and possibility and is not overwhelming."

And when you talk to your kids about their school concerns, Dahlsgaard says parents should do more than just reassure their children.

"If your child voices a worry such as, 'What if my teacher doesn't like me?' Resist the urge to simply reassure with, 'Oh of course your teacher will like you.' First of all, you don't know that and your child knows that you don't know that," Dahlsgaard explains. "Secondly, you aren't providing your child with the opportunity to practice the crucial skill of generating a coping plan."

She said coming up with a plan will help them face and solve their problems going forward in their life. "Because what you're teaching them is confronting anxiety head on but do so in a way that would likely ensure success."

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