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Helping your kids cope with back-to-school anxiety

Heading back to school often brings a flood of emotions, not to mention those first day jitters. But how do you manage all of that, on top of COVID-19?

YORK, Pa. — Heading back to school often brings a flood of emotions, not to mention those first day jitters. But how do you manage all of that, on top of the uncertainty of COVID-19?

FOX43 spoke with some professionals who have some advice on how to make the transition a lot easier. 

Through all the excitement of a new school year, comes new concerns for parents and students. This year, some kids may need help getting back into the swing of things. That includes seeing friends and being social again, after a year of virtual learning and isolation. 

“Ask them what they're worried about, what you are concerned about...and then go from there,” Dr. Melissa Brown, licensed psychologist with UPMC Central Pa. said. 

If a parent feels their child is struggling with social anxiety, Dr. Brown said the best way to check in is to simply talk about what could be bothering them. Dr. Brown also said some kids may feel embarrassed to open up, and it's important to let them know that these feelings are normal. 

“I think for kids, it is a struggle because you know so much of their being is just being social and being connected, and I always remind them just fall back on to those basic skills you were taught in kindergarten or younger, ask someone to play, what they like to play, just start reintroducing yourself," Dr. Brown said. 

Solita Day, a school social worker, said parents should be doing emotional check-ins with their kids daily, especially with younger kids.

She said that she's had to review with children how to play with one another. 

"They spent so much time in isolation with siblings or by themselves that they don’t always remember the 'norms' for playing with one another," Day said. 

According to psychologists, parents don't have to do all of the work, and it's important for students to also check-in with their friends as well. Dr. Brown said she tells kids to ask each other how they're doing. 

She said conversations can be harder with teens, and if parents fear something may be wrong, she said they can recognize it through different behaviors connected to their child's sleep or appetite. Dr. Brown suggested paying close attention to when a teenager gets out of bed, or whether they are eating significantly less or more. 

She also explained that it's crucial for parents to help their kids get reacclimated with social skills. It's also important to stay positive and try to understand what they're going through, according to her. 

"Be kind," Day said. "You never know what another person is going through." 

Both Drs. Brown and Day encourage parents to talk to school counselors, or find a local psychologist if they need extra help. Schools will be able to provide you with a number of resources, depending on the help you need.

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