For most kids, back to school time is about deciding what to wear on the first day of school, making sure their backpack is fully stocked, and looking forward to seeing their friends every day. But back to school isn’t so exciting for everyone, especially children with an anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.
The symptoms of anxiety disorders in children are sometimes different than in adults, says clinical psychologist Kari Astley Stephens, Ph.D. Here’s how to tell if your child has normal back to school jitters—or if their behavior may be a sign of a disorder that should be addressed by a professional.
Their nerves don’t seem age appropriate
A kindergartener coming into school should be really nervous, says Stephens. In fact, some schools even accommodate for this by giving kids a practice week before the school year starts, or having the kindergarteners come in a little late on the first day so they don’t have to walk in with all the big kids.
But older kids shouldn’t feel as nervous, so be mindful of your older kids’ reactions in the days leading up to the first day of school. That said, every year is a transition, and feeling a little nervous to go to school is normal at any age, Stephens says. But you should notice it gets easier within the first few weeks of school starting.