The Start of a New School Year May Give Children Anxiety
August typically indicates the start of a new school year for many young children. It gives them a chance to experience new settings, learn new information, and see their friends. However, the beginning of the school year also leads to an increase in anxiety for many children. Going back to school may be exciting for many, but it can also be dangerous to children’s mental health.
Schools are effectively jobs where kids are incredibly micromanaged by their teachers. These working conditions are extremely stressful for adults, let alone children. It is no wonder why going back to school leads to a decline in children’s mental health.
Going Back to School Increases Psychiatric Hospital Admissions
The summer months are a time for children to relax and enjoy their stress-free everyday lives. Kids get to relax and refresh themselves, being free from the stress of working in a classroom. Unfortunately for many parents, once the school year begins, there is a rise in mental health crises in school-aged children.
According to one study, the average number of psychiatric hospital admissions dropped from 32 to 22 per 100,000 school-aged children over the summer months. It also showed a drop in admissions in December as well, which makes sense if school is being viewed as a major factor in these mental health crises.
Another study done at Connecticut Children’s Mental Center in Hartford showed that over a ten-year span, that ER visits for psychiatric cases increased every year. Even more so, after averaging the number of visits per month, the results found that both July and August had less than half the visits compared to the rest of the months children would be in school.
Most children are not in school during the summer months. They get to live their life without the stress of homework, needing to study for exams, or getting high grades. While children are in school, they are constantly being managed by their teachers. Schools are great at helping children develop social and cognitive skills, but they also give children high anxiety.
Children are constantly being told what to do, how they are supposed to do it, and when they can do it. Often, they are not allowed to leave their seat without the permission of their teacher. Their work is evaluated by teachers and is often compared to their classmates. Research on employment has shown that work environments similar to this are the most stressful.
Schools often restrict children’s freedom, and kids are not allowed to quit. While not every child experiences a decline in mental health, there are still many that do. There are signs that every parent should stay alert for such as:
- Increased irritability
- Extreme temper tantrums
- Use of controlled substances
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Hurting others or property
- Eating too much or too little
- Poor performance in school
- Increased feelings of depression or anxiety
Not all of these signs will be present, but even the presence of just a few may indicate a mental health crisis may be on the verge of beginning.
How to Help Your Child
There are many things parents can do to help their child with their increased anxiety or depression. While you should never try to fix your child, you can also be there for them. Here are some tips parents can utilize:
- Listen to your child. Just listen to their worries and anxieties. Do not dismiss them. Acknowledge that they are real, so your child feels more secure. You can even help them strategize ways to handle them, but your job is to validate their feelings.
- Get them familiar with the school. Regardless if they are not going to a new school, taking them to their campus and walking the halls could help ease their worries about starting the new year. Introducing them to their classroom and teacher may also help.
- Let someone at the school know. While many faculty members can’t focus on your child all the time, they can still help a child feel more comfortable by greeting them before a classroom becomes crowded and chaotic.
- Temper your anxiety. Going back to school can give parents anxiety, too, but it’s important to manage and temper your worries, so you don’t pass this stress to your child.
The beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for both parents and children. While your child will learn plenty while in school, there is a greater risk that they may experience a mental health crisis while in school. Lifeworks Counseling Center is here to help educate you on how to manage your child’s anxieties. If your child does experience a mental health crisis, do not hesitate to contact us.