First Day Fears

Jonesboro (KAIT)-- Summer is over and the first day of school has come.  Armed with notebooks, pens and paper, children are ready.....or are they?

"As the days get closer, I'm getting more nervous."

Alyssa Nelson is entering the 8th grade and shares concerns common among students her age.  She is worried about her new schedule and whether she will have classes with her friends.  There are many apprehensions children and parents face, but how does one know if these fears are something more, and if they are more, what can be done?

"Parents need to know what's going on," Brenday Turman warns, " be there to guide them and give them directions."

Turman knows the drill. After raising her kids and getting them through school, she is now doing the process again with her grandkids, 5th grader Ashlyn O'Neal and 8th grader Jordan O'Neal.  Turman says that children will be apprehensive, but a parent or guardian needs to be patient and simply listen to their concerns.

Alyssa Nelson's mother, Patty, is conerned more about her child's well-being.

"The way society is today," she admits, " that's my biggest concern."

With obstacles like drugs, bullies and medical issues, parents have a lot to be nervous about at the beginning of school.  However, encouraging communication and taking care of their child's overall health and well-being are two areas parents need to focus on.   The latter is second-nature to most parents: making sure their child is getting enough sleep, providing healthy meals, and addressing medical issues.  The former, however, can frustrate and confuse parents since children go through so many developmental stages and as they grow, they express themselves in different ways.

In an article entitled "What Parents Should Know," Lisa Fritscher breaks down the different stages a child goes through and their reactions to pressures and fears.

Elementary school is a time when children start to regress by becoming clingy or throwing tantrums.  They either freeze or run away when confronted with a situation that makes them uneasy.  Fritscher says that parents should be aware that stomach aches or other physical complaints are common and sometimes follow a pattern.

Middle school begins the establishment of identities.  Students experience more pressure as they forge more adult friendships and begin thinking about their future.  Bullying and humiliation can lead a child to express their fear through defiance.  They could become withdrawn or argumentative.  Some get involved with the wrong crowd, turn to drugs or alcohol, or skip school.

High school brings a whole new wave of change and pressure. Students are torn between wanting to be an adult, yet still holding on to their childhood.  Grades, dating, and college wears heavy on their mind.

Two phobias that are most common during this age are agoraphobia and social phobia.  Agoraphobia is the abnormal fear of public places and interaction, often associated with anxiety attacks.  Social phobia is any phobia, other than agoraphobia, associated with a fear of social situations where one could be criticized by others.

According to the article, parents need to be supportive within reason.  It advises against making your child "face their fear," saying by doing so, it could cause psychological problems.  However, don't be too supportive.  Avoid shielding your child from every fear they may have.

If you need help, talk to a teacher or counselor.  Be careful not to put the teacher on the defense, however.

The most important action parents can take is to talk with--not to--their child.  Listen to what they have to say,and encourage them to share as much or as little as they wish.

By taking these simple steps, parents and children can be prepared for what the new year brings.

Rebecca Lane