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Doctor eases fears as new school year brings new anxieties

WCVB Boston logo WCVB Boston 8/30/2021
a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: students outside school © Provided by WCVB Boston students outside school

The new school year can already be nerve-wracking for kids, but throw in a COVID-19 pandemic and it could cause some real anxiety.

During the past year and a half, one of the most certain things of the pandemic has been the uncertainty — and that’s spilling over into this new school year.

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Whether it’s over masks, being back in a classroom surrounded by people or a non-COVID-19 issue like making friends, kids have a lot on their plates.

“This is a period of fluidity,” Dr. Jacque Cutillo said. “Everyone just needs to give themselves grace and roll with the punches.”

Cutillo is a psychologist and assistant clinical director at the nonprofit Youth Villages.

She works with emotionally at-risk kids and she's a mom.

Her first tip for parents is keep your anxiety to yourself. You may not even realize it, but your child picks up on everything.

Next, listen to your child to understand what exactly is bothering them.

“We need to figure out what their actual concern is with school and help solve that. Is it that they don’t feel comfortable talking to their teacher or maybe they’re nervous they will miss the bus in the afternoon, or something along those lines. We really need to unpack that,” she said.

Once you’ve pinpointed the issue, something that can help all kids is structure.

Get everyone on a routine, and stick to the schedule.

“Getting to bed on time, starting to wake up on time, as a parent getting yourself organized. Packing lunch the night before, making sure the permission slips are signed, clothes are picked out, backpacks are packed and ready to go, so making sure you’re set up for success going into this,” Cutillo said.

Cutillo said the more in-control your child feels about the day, the easier it will be for them.

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