Going back to school or starting for the first time can be a challenging and sometimes frightening

event in a child’s life. As a result of the excitement and sometimes fear, children returning to

school may often express a host of moods and behaviors. Children may experience anxiety

during this time and for younger students, anxiety may look different than what we see in adults.

Anxiety (or stress) in children may include some of the symptoms below:


• Withdrawal

• Angry

• Sleep disturbances

• Stomachaches

• Headaches


• Irritability

• Aggressive

• Withdrawal

• Illness

• Isolation

It is important for parents and caregivers to recognize the meanings behind the behaviors and

mood changes. For children, behavior is language-a language in which we adults were once

fluent. This adjustment to school and the stressors our children face can be overcome by

learning to engage in active listening and coping skills. Active listening includes listening

without interruption, observing non-verbal behavior (remember-behavior is language), and

acknowledge how they feel about the situation. This helps our children feel safe, respected,

valued, and it increases their language development. Practicing coping skills regularly with our

children is a strong component to reducing anxiety (stress). These can be modeled by parents

and caregivers to aid in the acceptance of such skills. A simple yet powerful coping skill we

practice is deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing/belly breathing). Effective deep breathing is

breathing into the belly through the nose with a slow count to five, brief pause, then exhale out of

the mouth at a slow count to five. A helpful hint for deep breathing is placing your hand on

your belly as you breathe in and exhale. Only your hand should raise as you breathe in and your

chest should stay in place. It takes a little practice but is a great tool for lowering stress

hormones, reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure-all of which can spike when

experiencing anxiety.

We look forward to sharing more helpful tips for children and families. If your child’s

symptoms have been persistent for more than two to three weeks and this is interfering with their

daily life and interactions, consider meeting with a provider in your area. We have clinicians

available in Lincoln, Beatrice, Walthill, and Santee. We provide telehealth as an option when

distance is a barrier. If you would like to learn more about the work we do or are considering

meeting with a provider, please feel free to give us a call at 402-327-9711.


Dr. Anitra Warrior, PhD

Lead Clinician, Society of Care

Owner, Morningstar Counseling & Consultation