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Tips on preparing students and managing start-of-school anxiety | Mind Matters

As students head back to class, clinical social worker Brittany Hargis suggests parents watch their behavior closely as mental health needs rise.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Most Arkansas kids will return to school in mid-August. The changes that come with a new year can cause stress and anxiety. A successful transition back to school starts long before the first bell, according to mental health professionals.

Brittany Hargis is a licensed clinical social worker at Rise Counseling & Diagnostics in Little Rock.

"This last year, we have seen a rise in mental health needs —  and even in crisis situations — for children," she said.

As students head back to class, Hargis suggests parents watch their behavior closely.

"This school year is going to be different because some of these kids haven't been to school for an entire year," she said. "Think about when you go on a vacation and you go back to work, you don't really want to go back. Put that in the context of an entire school year."

Resistance and anxiety are normal to some degree, Hargis said. However, if it lasts several weeks or is disproportional to what your child is worried about, it might be time to seek professional help.

"Instead of trying to stop the behavior, look for what's causing the behavior," she said. "Be curious about it. This is an opportunity to connect with your child and empathize with them."

Managing back to school stress starts now — before the first bell rings.

"Start with a bedtime routine, powering down devices at least an hour before bed, waking up at the time you need to to get ready for school -- kind of almost rehearsing your school routine," Hargis suggested.

Reconnecting with old friends and attending the school open house can also help students feel more comfortable, she said.

As the new school year begins, Hargis wants to remind kids: "You can do this. You can achieve your goals. You can do anything that you want to do. Don't be afraid to ask for help."

Click here for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's guide for transitioning back to school.

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