Adjusting to a new school year: Back To School-itis

The news last week ran its usual array of back to school stories. One, in particular, caught my eye. The story was about back to school “nerves”. It isn’t one of the more popular topics covered by the news but a good one to note because it does occur in kids of all ages and is worth knowing about just in case your kids get some early school days jitters.

I call this phenomenon “back to schoolitis”. I wrote an article a few years ago that I last ran in 2011.  I’m reposting it for you today because it’s even more relevant in 2015 with kids under even more pressure than it was in 2011.

“Back to schoolitis”…All our kids experience this – it is really a form of stress. Kids handle transitions differently from each other and many do just fine but the start of a new school year is a transition and you should expect the other shoe to drop as expectations and work increase. Each Fall, Pediatricians and school Guidance Counselors see an increase in kids of all ages having vague symptoms including:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • Stomach complaints: aches, constipation, diarrhea
  • Nervousness to frank anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Depression

What should you do? First, reassure your child that he or she is doing just fine and feeling the same way as every other kid at school this time of year. If your child is in elementary school, talk to your child’s teacher. Find out how your child seems at school. It is very normal for a child to get through the day at school and “let their hair down” at home showing you their true feelings. If all is fine at school, I would worry less. If your child is in middle school or high school where many teachers are involved, the school guidance office is the place to start. School typically assign a student to a guidance counselor who can talk to your child and see if there is anything going on beyond expected school transition issues.

If your child’s symptoms begin to interfere with home, social or school functioning that’s the time to call your child’s pediatrician to intervene. Medication may help with the physical symptoms. If stress is the issue, counseling may help. If school is causing issues, the school should get involved and help form an action plan based on the root cause.

Education is complicated and issues in school from academic to social do manifest with physical issues at times. So, keep an eye out and let your pediatrician know if you are concerned.

(updated September, 2015)