Tips on Reducing Back-to-School Jitters

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By Larry Burkum

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The beginning of a new school year can be an anxious time for children of any age.

Whether it's the transition to kindergarten, junior high, or high school, experts say there are simple things parents can do to curb those jitters and make kids feel at ease.

A new school year can bring lots of excitement, but clinical psychologist Mari Zimmitti says also some anxiety.

"Will I have friends, Who will be in my class, Who will sit with me at lunch? You know, when younger kids start new schools, will the older kids be nice to me?"

Zimmitti says even high school students can get jitters.

"The pressure of homework, the getting up early, going to bed late, all the other extracurriculars, the overscheduling that they go through," said Zimmitti.

The best move for parents: get kids of any age to open up.

"I think our first reaction as parents is to say, 'Well don't worry, it's fine, there's nothing to be worried about.' We don't really validate their feelings and that's really the first step in getting them to talk," she said.

Zimmitti says younger and older children can also benefit from adjusting their sleep schedule ahead of the start of school.

She says make it fun. Make an event of shopping and preparing for the new school year.

Also, after weeks of summer camps and vacations, reconnect children with friends.

And practice routines like the walk to the bus stop or a locker combination so kids know what to expect.

Parents may want to seek professional help if a child doesn't want to go to school, stops going to school, or withdraws socially, to get deeper anxiety issues under control.

"Anxiety is just a feeling and we don't want to try and get rid of it for our kids. We actually want to teach them to cope with it and to manage it," Zimmitt said.

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