Easing Back-to-School Jitters

42 per cent of Canadian parents say kids' stress is on the rise during final days of summer

TORONTO, Aug. 29, 2011 /CNW/ - It's the last week before kids head back-to-school, and student stress is on the rise. According to a national Angus Reid survey, 42 per cent of parents have noticed their kids' anxiety levels increasing during these final days, with kids from British Columbia showing the highest levels (47%) of apprehension to the least in Atlantic Canada (22%).

Parents who believe their kids are feeling anxious identified new teachers (54%), a new schedule (48%) and being overwhelmed by homework (40%) as the main triggers attributed to their kids' back-to-school stress.

"Most people get nervous when they face change, so it's normal for many kids to feel anxious about going back to school," said Dr. Stephen Whiteside, Child Psychologist at the Mayo Clinic. "One of the most helpful things you can do is reassure your children what they're feeling is normal."

The survey found parents with anxious children are trying to help ease their anxieties by getting back into a routine by getting up earlier (58%), sharing experiences on what makes them feel anxious and how they handle stressful situations (54%), and going for a visit to their school or classroom before school begins (23%).

Canadian parents can supplement their stress-reducing strategies with the following tips from Dr. Whiteside in order to make children more comfortable with things which are causing nervousness.

  • Get a sense of what it is about school that makes them feel nervous. Are they concerned about making new friends? About new teachers? Are they worried about the class work or about being overwhelmed by homework? Being able to talk about those details and put the nervousness into words can be helpful for a child who's feeling anxious.
  • Show love, support and warmth - it can go a long way. Parents can share experience they had when they were anxious about facing something new and discuss how they handled the situation. Doing this will let him know that he's not alone in the situation, that it's okay to be nervous, and there are ways to get through it.
  • Encourage them to breathe a little more slowly and deeply. When they begin to feel anxious, this will help calm their nerves and feel more in control of stomach aches.
  • Help them gradually get back into school routines. Make contact with school friends and arrange to spend time with some of them before school begins. Talk to teachers and learn about what their classes involve this new school year. Take them to their school building and look around their classroom. Get them to practice their locker combination. Start getting up a little earlier in the morning.
  • If anxiety persists, talk with your pediatrician or family doctor. If anxiety doesn't decrease after taking the following steps, find out about seeing a professional who can help your child cope. Anxiety is a normal part of life and can't be eliminated completely. However, there are many successful strategies that can be very helpful in reducing anxiety and making it less disruptive and more manageable.

Stats by region
The most stressed province is British Columbia  at 47 per cent followed by Manitoba and Saskatchewan (46%), Quebec (44%), Ontario (43%) Alberta (36%) and Atlantic Canada (22%).

About the Survey
From August 25 to August 26, 2011, an online survey was conducted among 2,006 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.14%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.org/canada, www.mayoclinic.com and www.mayoclinic.org/news.

For further information:

Linda North
Venture Communications
linda@openminds.ca
416-849-1874