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Gearing Advantage

Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Back to School! - Aug 7, 2006

Back to School!

August 7, 2006

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, CBS 11 News

With thousands of North Texan children heading back to school this week, many parents are hoping to start the school year out with success. Yet many parents are unsure exactly what they should be saying to their child as they head back into the classroom. Here to help us out with a few tips is psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing

Q: Why is the beginning of school so difficult for kids?

Dr. Sylvia: I often wonder who has the harder time--parents or kids! The beginning of school is a time to face the unknown and the new. You and your child are charting foreign territory. The child can no longer retreat to the safety of his home and family. Based on his last experience in a school setting, the child carries a set of preconceived ideas and beliefs into the classroom with him. Parents need to take the time to pay special attention to their children through this potentially difficult time.

Q: So the previous school year has a great deal to do with how they begin this one?

Dr. Sylvia: Without a doubt, our previous experiences always influence our expectations about upcoming events. Children who have weathered difficult times, especially during the previous year, are naturally going to be more anxious. However, your attitude is pivotal in setting the stage for a new experience this year.

Q: How common is anxiety during this time period?

Dr. Sylvia: Unfortunately, childhood anxiety disorders in general have grown exponentially in recent years. Presently about 1 out of 10 kids experience diagnosable anxiety. Going back to school represents a significant separation stress that taxes the child emotionally. Between the ages of 6 to 8, we expect children to demonstrate increasing emotional regulation during times of transition such as at the beginning of school. They need to be nervous but must show they can take it in stride.

Q: What should parents look for if they are worried their child is developing school anxiety?

Dr. Sylvia: Here are a few of the warning signs of school anxiety to look for:

Obsessive Thoughts: Having constant thoughts and intense fears about the safety of mom, dad, other family members, their dog or cat or even the world at large are key signs that there may be excessive anxiety. Going to school shouldn't be this hard!

School Refusal: The child who absolutely refuses to go to school is sending you a clear message. Either he has developed an oppositional disorder and is intent on telling you what to do, or he has generated a specific phobia to school.

Frequent Physical Complaints: Many school anxious kids suddenly develop a variety of physical complaints such as headaches, stomach aches, sleeplessness, or poor appetite that (surprisingly!) prevent them from attending school.

Excessive Clinging or Tantrums: Affection is one thing, clinging is another, especially if it escalates into a tantrum. If your child "pitches a fit" as you are heading to school, you may want to explore just how nervous he has become.

Q: Are there specific strategies parents can use to help their kids transition back to school?

Dr. Sylvia: Here are a few tips that seem to work quite well for most parents:

Arise and Shine: During the first few days, your family should get up early so that any misgivings can be dealt with at the time. Also, practice going to school before the actual day. Make a dry run and point out all the familiar places and people your child will be seeing again.

Coach-able Moment: Consider the beginning of school as a prime opportunity to teach your child how to handle a stressful, ambiguous experience. Helping your child articulate his sadness or fear while insisting that he face the challenge of going back to school helps him learn to regulate his emotions.

Focus on the Fun: Teachers work hard to make the beginning weeks fun-packed to ease the transition for parents and kids. Ask your child what three things he is most excited about. Check out the playground or gym and notice all the cool things in the classroom.

Limit Crying and Refocus Child: While crying can be a great stress reliever, it can also be very manipulative if it goes too far. After your child has cried, refocus him quickly on the positives.

Give Your Child Choices: Providing your child with simple choices can help reestablish a sense of control during a tough time. For example, take a team approach to school supply shopping or let your child choose from several outfits for his first day back in the classroom.