For many, back-to-school brings with it plenty of excitement. There’s the joy of opening fresh school supplies, the shopping for backpacks and clothes, and the promise of engaging teachers and fun friends. However, when school’s in session, so is an increase of social and academic pressure. In fact, this pressure can easily be observed by looking at the data points that represent the influx of psychiatric ER visits occurring during the school year.
Using information publicly available from Connecticut Children’s Mental Center, Psychology Today contributor Peter Gray Ph.D found that “July and August are the months with, by far, the fewest children’s psychiatric ER Visits.” And psychiatric visits “dropped in the summer and rose again in the school year.”
It’s natural and normal for parents to expect there to be some jitters that come along with the first few days (or even weeks) of school. With a litany of new information, new schedules and classrooms, how could our children not feel somewhat off-kilter? The critical thing is to determine if what our children are experiencing is part of the normal range of “back-to-school” nerves, or indicative of a larger problem.
Psychology Today contributor, Amy Przeworski Ph.D points out we can bet that there’s something more going on when an issue “gets in the way” of your child’s school day. If your child suffers from ongoing “headaches, stomach aches, difficulty sleeping, nightmares and avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations like giving a book report or asking questions in school,” it may be time to seek out help for an anxiety issue. Mental Health America also suggests consulting a professional if your child:
- Feels very sad, hopeless or irritable
- Feels overly anxious or worried
- Is scared and fearful; has frequent nightmares
- Is excessively angry
- Uses alcohol or drugs
- Avoids people, wants to be alone all of the time
- Hears voices or sees things that aren’t there
- Can’t concentrate, sit still or focus attention
- Needs to wash, clean things or perform rituals many times a day
- Talks about suicide or death
- Hurts other people or animals; or damages property
- Has major changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Loses interest in friends or things usually enjoyed
- Falls behind in school or earns lower grades
The new school year provides parents and caretakers a new opportunity to observe children and their behavior. It’s important to remember that 1 in 5 children are living with a mental illness, and only 1 in 5 of those children receive the treatment they so desperately need. As moms and dads, we don’t want to think that our child may be experiencing anything out of the range of what we perceive as normal. But the dangers of not doing so can result in a dropping out, drug use, trouble with the law and even suicide.
Since most of us have been back for a couple of weeks, we hope your child’s new school year nerves are wearing off. However, if you think there may be an issue, it’s crucial that you seek out treatment for your child. Resources like Clarity Child Guidance Center are available 24/7 with caring and knowledgeable experts that are ready to help.