Every summer, about two weeks before the beginning of school, my phone lights up at an alarming rate. With staggered start dates around the country, the concerns about back-to-school anxiety come in waves and continue through most of the fall. Good news: you’re not alone.
Take a second grade boy, for example. He loved kindergarten. He liked first grade. Just weeks before the first day of second grade, he declared that he had no intention of going to school anymore. At first, his parents thought it was cute and funny. Most kids would choose endless summer over homework and sitting still all day, after all. Within days of this declaration, however, his behavior changed.
He woke up with nightmares almost every night. His appetite decreased. He stopped doing the fun things he normally enjoyed, like running through the sprinkler with his sister and practicing soccer kicks in the yard. He became clingy, he whined a lot and he was irritable more often than not. He was anxious.
Feelings of anxiety are perfectly normal and to be expected during times of transition. While many people think of separation anxiety as a problem confined to toddlers and preschoolers, I also see it in elementary and middle school kids. And back-to-school anxiety can occur clear through high school!
Some kids are more hard-wired for anxious thoughts and feelings than others. While some level of anxiety affects most people, high levels of anxiety can be disruptive to both the child and the whole family.
Know the Signs
Some worries are to be expected. It’s not easy to walk into a new classroom with a new teacher and start from scratch every single year. Watch for these sneaky symptoms of anxiety as the new school year begins:
How to Deal with Back-to-School Anxiety
Consistency and routines are always a great place to start when it comes to squashing those back-to-school worries! Try some of these strategies to help your child ease into the new school year:
Attend school (and be early!). While it’s perfectly normal to have worries when starting a new school year, it’s very important to attend school each day. A huge meltdown might have you wondering if you should simply try another day, but avoidance of school will only increase and reinforce your child’s anxiety. Missing school because of anxiety robs your child of the chance to gain mastery, make friends, enjoy a successful school day and develop a relationship with the teacher.
Get back to basics. It’s very difficult to feel calm, confident and in control when you are starving or exhausted. Anxiety can cause kids to struggle with sleep and eat a little less. This means that parents have to stay on top of those childhood basics.
Set an earlier bedtime for the entire family, make sure each day includes plenty of downtime, and provide balanced meals and nutritious snacks with plenty of time to eat. Eating on the run is stressful for kids.
Allow extra time in the mornings. Anxious children don’t like to be late, nor do they enjoy being rushed. Now that you’ve pushed that bedtime up, your child should be able to wake with plenty of time to eat, get dressed and get ready for the day.
Create healthy nighttime routines to make the mornings easier. Choosing clothes at night, packing snacks and filling water bottles and packing the backpack and placing it by the door are all time savers for anxious kids.
Avoid blanket statements. When kids express worries about school, it’s tempting to respond with generic statements such as, “Don’t worry about it!” or “You’ll love it!” These statements rarely provide reassurance for worriers. A better tactic is to address specific worries with your child.
When parents take the time to listen and help children come up with strategies to solve problems, kids feel more confident. If your child is worried about where to sit at lunch, for example, have him draw a map of the lunchroom and discuss possibilities.
Role-play. The best way to gain mastery over worries is to practice taking control of worrisome situations. Have your child create a list of school-related worries and act out different ways to solve the problems. I like to have kids try out two or three solutions per problem so that they always have a back-up plan.
Watch your words. Kids look to their parents for clues. If you appear overwhelmed and anxious on the first day of school, your child is likely to follow your lead.
It’s perfectly natural for parents to have worries at the beginning of the school year. Instead of hyper-focusing on the potential negatives or faking it, take the time to talk about feelings and worries as a family. When families work through their feelings together, they empower one another.
Back-to-school anxiety can be stressful for families. More often than not, the anxiety decreases as the child adjusts to the new school year. If the anxiety persists, seek help. It’s far better to learn to manage anxious feelings than to suffer in silence and struggle through the school year.
Back-to-School TipsThe following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Making the First Day Easier
When Your Child Is Bullied
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
The death of Robin Williams has significantly impacted our nation and increased our awareness of mental health and substance use in the community. The comorbidity of mood disorders and substance use are well documented in the literature and, if left untreated, can be both debilitating and life threatening. A common symptom of mood disorders is suicidal ideation or death-related thoughts, which may or may not be expressed to others. It is important to remember that suicide does not occur in a vacuum but rather in the context of despair, hopelessness, and deep psychological pain. As the emotional and psychological pain deepens, the individual contemplates their existence, the meaning of life, and the nature of being in the world. Questions that he or she may consider include, “Why am I here?” “What is the purpose of my life?” Who would miss me if I were gone?” Many of these individuals believe that they are a burden to those around them and that no one would miss them if they were gone. Most common misconceptions of suicide are,“Suicide can’t be prevented”, “People who take their own life are selfish, cowards, weak or are just looking for attention”, “Talk therapy and/or medications don’t work”, “Asking someone about suicidal thoughts may trigger the act”, “People who threaten suicide never go through with it”, “Suicide does not affect young people”, “Suicide does not affect the elderly”, “People who commit suicide didn’t want help”.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, someone dies by suicide in the United States every 13.7 minutes. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 people who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental disorder, yet only 3 out of 10 people who died by suicide received mental health services in the year before they died. Furthermore, the official data collected in 2011 for the U.S.A. indicates that the population at greatest risk are Caucasian, middle-aged (45-64yrs old) men. In addition, suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death for youth (15-24yrs old). Given the prevalence rates of suicide among Americans, it is not surprising that suicide affects at least 6 other people, which translates to 6 new people becoming suicide survivors every 13.7 minutes. *
So, what should we know to be able to create informed opinions and have heightened awareness of factors surrounding suicide? Here is a non-exhaustive list of risk and protective factors, not mentioned above, that can help to increase your knowledge and a basic understanding.
The American Association of Suicidology has developed an easy mnemonic for the public to remember risk factors associated with suicide:
As a society, we are quick to adopt the mindset of those that are the most persistent and vocal, when many times their position is based on isolated (non-empirical) data. It is important that we not only stay informed with concrete factual information, but that we use this knowledge to assist or guide those that are in need and not abandon them for fear of being uncomfortable or not knowing what to say.
Jeremy H. Broussard PhD, LPC
Gannon J. Watts PhD, LPC-S, LAC, NCC, NCSC, AADC, ICAADC
*Data collected from www.suicidology.org
Beginning March 13, 2014, I will be out of the office and will not return until March 31, 2014. I have been invited to participate in a surge at Ft. Polk Louisiana as a Military & Family Life Counselor (MFLC). This is an honor and I am very excited about this opportunity to provide services to those who have served. While being out of the office for 2-3 weeks was difficult, I did not want to pass up this rare experience.
For those of you who may know me, I am very passionate about serving those strong and brave men and women who have served us by giving us the freedom to live our lives. Giving back to them is important and something that I have chosen to do.
This surge is only lasting from March 13th to March 29th. The Lafayette office will reopen on Monday March 31rst, and the Abbeville office will resume on Thursday April 3rd.
Jeremy H. Broussard, PhD, LPC
For most insurance companies, the beginning of the new year means that deductibles are often reset to zero. This can have a significant impact on the costs that clients are responsible for at the time of service. For instance, clients that had previously met their deductible at the middle or end of the year may not have had to pay anything for counseling or, in some cases, a small amount. This made receiving counseling services convenient to the client and the counselor.
Now that 2014 is right around the corner, clients need to be aware that they may have to meet their deductible again, which means that they will have to pay out-of-pocket for counseling until there deductible is met. In my practice, payment is always due on the date of service. Therefore, I make it convenient for clients to make payment before or at the session by accepting:
Remember that all insurance companies and even policies within insurance companies are different. As a client, it is your responsibility to know your deductible and copay and whether or not you will be responsible for (a) paying the full amount or (b) paying a co-pay. Keep in mind that co-pays are sometimes a set number (i.e., $25) and sometimes a percent (i.e., 20%). To help clients, I have made a simple check list of questions to ask your insurance carrier before your first counseling appointment:
I hope that these questions are helpful in determining your coverage. As a new or existing client, it is always the client’s responsibility for knowing and understanding their insurance policies and coverage.
Once the New Year arrives, I require all clients to pay for services at the appointment regardless of their insurance. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that payment is received promptly and to prevent clients from accumulating a large balance (that may results if the insurance company does not pay!). This is beneficial for both the counselor and the client. If the insurance company does provide payment for services, a reimbursement check is either sent to the client or a credit is issued to their account at the discretion of the client.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact my office.
Jeremy H. Broussard, PhD, LPC
I am happy to report that I now accept paypal and credit cards as methods of payment from clients. While it took me awhile to make the change, I believe that making credit cards and papal an option for payment will be more convenient and comfortable for clients in my practice(s). Here is a list of the cards that I accept:
4. American Express
As of March 1, 2013, I have moved offices. I am no longer located at 105 Westmark Blvd. My new office is located at 321 Travis St, which is located in the Oil Center near Lafayette General Hospital and The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. My new office is easily accessible from Johnson St., University, Pinhook, and South College.
I am now accepting Medicaid under the new Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership governed by Magellan. If you are a Medicaid client and are interested in receiving counseling services, please contact Medicaid to confirm that I am listed as a provider.
I was interviewed by a KATC reporter on the topic of gays and lesbian teens coming out to their parents and how parents can be supportive of their teens at this time. The link for watching the video is below:
I have moved office locations. I am no longer located on Eraste Landry Rd. My new office location is:
Acadiana Family Counseling
105 Westmark Blvd Suite 1-D
Lafayette, LA 70506
Here you can read the latest information about our practice.