Is Your Child Suffering From Back to School Stress?

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Is your child one of the many children experiencing anxiety as the first day of school looms near? Experiencing back-to-school jitters is perfectly normal. But it’s important for parents to recognize excessive stress in their child, as children themselves may not recognize that they are stressed.

In small amounts, stress can be good. But, excessive stress can affect the way a child thinks, acts, and feels. This is particularly true of special needs children who are particularly sensitive to stress and the triggers that cause stress.

Children learn how to respond to stress as they grow and develop. Many stressful events that an adult can manage will cause stress in a child. As a result, even small changes can impact a child’s feelings of safety and security.

School related stressors for children may include:

·Worrying about schoolwork or grades

·Juggling responsibilities, such as school and work or sports

·Problems with friends, bullying, or peer group pressures

·Changing schools, moving, or dealing with housing problems or homelessness

·Having negative thoughts about themselves

Signs Your Child is Struggling with Stress

It’s important to recognize when your child is stressed and having a difficult time adjusting to change and new situations. Things to look for include both physical and emotional/behavioral symptoms that seem excessive or persist over several weeks:


Decreased appetite, other changes in eating habits


New or recurrent bedwetting

Incontinence of bowel or bladder


Sleep disturbances

Upset stomach or vague stomach pain

Other physical symptoms with no physical illness

Emotional or behavioral symptoms:

Anxiety, worry, inability to relax

New or recurring fears…of the dark, of being alone, of strangers

Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight, inability to sleep alone

Angry outbursts, crying, whining

Inability to control emotions

Aggressive or stubborn behavior

Unwillingness to participate in family or school activities

These symptoms may be exacerbated in children with special needs.

What You Can Do to Help

Parents can help children respond to stress in healthy ways. Consider the following tips:

  1. Maintain family routines, such as having family dinners together or a movie night. Be a role model by managing your own stress in healthy ways.

2. Avoid television programs, books, and games that share violent content as they can produce fears and anxiety.

3. Encourage physical activity that helps your child decompress.

4. Build your child’s feelings of self-worth. Use encouragement and affection. Use rewards, not punishment. Try to involve your child in activities where they can succeed.

If, despite your best efforts, your child is still exhibiting signs of unmanaged stress, consult a health care provider, counselor, or therapist. For more information regarding occupational therapy and yoga therapy, please email

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