Excitement, sadness, anticipation, fear, anxiety – this time of the year is filled with emotion.
Summer is ending, for kids a new school year is beginning, and no matter what the age, for both the student and parent, this can lead to some anxiety. The doctor is in to help all of us get through it.
"There are a lot of potential stressors that can occur throughout the year. One is peer stress and social stressors of just adapting to the day to day. And that can include bullying, involvement in romantic relationships, relationships on the sports field or an extracurricular. Also, academic pressures, internally or societal," said Dr. Nasuh Malas, a child psychologist at University of Michigan Health.
Malas said it's important to talk to children and figure out what they are thinking.
"It can be really hard to reassure children and adolescents about some of the stressors that kids just experience in school these days, whether it's bullying or violence, or other unexpected challenges that occur, it's hard to really anticipate all that all you can do as a parent, is create an open door policy where anything that the child wants to bring to you, they can bring it to you in a loving and nurturing way," Malas said.
Pre-pandemic data from the CDC finds that close to 1 in 10 children between the ages of three and seventeen had diagnosed anxiety. That’s nearly 5.8 million children in the United States. Malas says anxiety can be healthy but it can also be concerning.
"It's when that anxiety becomes more significant and starts to really affect lots of different areas in our life, whether it's not being able to be involved in social relationships, struggling completing school tasks, showing behaviors that are really disruptive or problematic. Those behaviors and those emotions can sometimes be really impairing for a child. And when that occurs, that's when you want to call a specialist to get help," Malas said.
Malas says there are factors we can try to control that help support good mental health, good sleep, nutritious food, being active, and having a good sense of self-worth. Those are good behaviors to model as adults.
If your child is experiencing a mental health emergency or suicidal thoughts, the new 9-8-8 hotline can provide support. Parents can also find more resources on child anxiety by visiting the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Family Resource Center on Anxiety Disorders.