Nervousness and anxiety expected as new school year approaches

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 1:10 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The new school year is just around the corner. But after a year of isolation, Zoom calls, and masks this year may bring much more anxiety for students, parents, and teachers.

Dr. Claudia Allen, a psychologist with the University of Virginia Health System, has been tracking anxiety in children throughout the course of the pandemic. She says this school year will have its unique challenges.

“For most kids this August is going to be the first time in a year and a half. If you’re a seven, or eight or nine-year-old, a year and a half is a big chunk of your life, so it feels even longer to them than it does to us,” Allen said.

She said she expects some students to experience heightened nervousness and social anxiety before their first day.

“There are some kids who are really apprehensive about it because maybe school wasn’t a great experience to begin with,” she said. “Or, maybe it just feels like it’s been so long, they barely even remember what it was like.”

Allen said before students arrive to school, in person, for the first time, exposure to their environment and others could help.

“Try to get them together with their peers before school starts,” Allen said. “If you haven’t been back to the school, literally, driving by, literally pulling up and parking and walking around the outside of the building, is helpful.”

Counselors working with students throughout the school day are prepared. Cabell Guy, a counselor with Albemarle County Public Schools, said the district is ramping up its mental health resources to prepare for the challenge.

“We have a grant that’s bringing in more mental health professionals and mental health workers here in the schools,” Grant said. “So, at the middle school level, each school is getting an additional counselor or social worker to help with the transition back to school.”

That way, more people can spot the signs of distress on site.

”Having people that they can turn to if a crisis is coming up or things are starting to go wrong in their life and they need another adult to support them, then those opportunities are here to help them with whatever they might be struggling with,” he said.

Both Guy and Dr. Allen said some of the warning signs of a student with high anxiety or stress include a change in behavior and diet.

In most schools, students were able to gradually come back last year, which they both said will help prevent anxiety come the first day of school.

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