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Help dealing with back-to-school anxiety

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DENVER -- This time of year lots of kids are dealing with back to school anxiety, and it can be tough for parents to handle. Kids can experience stomach aches or headaches, trouble sleeping or eating, or just general nervousness.

“Sometimes I see a little bit of a sick tummy, a nervous tummy with my kids,” said Sara Goodwin, a mother of three from Lone Tree.

She’s received a phone call from her anxious child asking to get picked up from school. “Identifying that trigger really helps,” Goodwin said. She helps her kids with coping mechanisms like breathing exercises and imagery, and talks them through what is logical.

Many families work with a psychologist like Dr. Sheryl Ziegler at the Child and Family Therapy Center at Lowry. She has advice for every age group.


Dr. Ziegler says preschoolers could be worried about separation. If possible, let them see the classroom, meet the teacher and some kids before the start of school. “Have them bring some sort of transitional object, that they are still usually really holding onto  ... so a teddy bear, a doll those kinds of things,” Dr. Ziegler said.

Elementary school

For Elementary school, kids may feel nervous about change. She says talk it through, organize school supplies and offer some lines to start conversation. “What did you do this summer? Did you have a good time ?  Did you swim a lot?” she suggested.

Middle school

For middle school, much of the stress comes from their social lives, meeting new people, or dealing with social media. Dr. Ziegler says try to develop strong connections before the start of school, and help the kids have a strong sense of self.

High school

In high school it is also about fitting in, but there is increased academic pressure. “I’ve had kids say to me like now all my grades matter, now everything I do matters,” she said. Dr. Ziegler adds kids need perspective, and a sense of belonging. Find a club for whatever they are interested in. “I always say your people are going to be there.”