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Mindful Headlines: How parents can calm back-to-school anxiety

Psychiatrist Dr. Avanti Bergquist shares strategies parents can use to cope with anxiety about kids returning to the classroom.

Listen to Mindful Headlines on Apple, Google, Spotify, Podbean and Stitcher.

During back-to-school season, it’s not just kids that can feel stressed about starting a new school routine; parents may also be feeling some trepidation.

Understandably, some parents have felt stressed, confused or frustrated with constantly changing guidelines surrounding masks and social distancing in the past 18 months.

In this week’s Mindful Headlines podcast, host Jessica Janner Castro talked with Dr. Avanti Bergquist, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, about parental anxiety during the back-to-school season.

Bergquist, who’s also on the Renton School Board and a mom of two elementary-aged children, said being flexible and allowing for change is more beneficial than obsessing over possible changes that may or may not occur in the upcoming school year.

“It’s helpful to explain what we’re worried about,” suggested Bergquist.

Bergquist also emphasized the importance of having honest (but age-appropriate) dialogue with kids. She said it’s okay for parents to feel stressed or anxious but to understand how that stress can affect the rest of the household.

If you’re having a hard time talking to small children about wearing masks at school, Bergquist suggested saying something like this to elementary school kids: “Yeah, there’s still a lot of sickness around and we want to be careful, so we’re going to wear masks. At school they’re taking care of you.”

For all ages, Bergquist said if you’re having doubts or anxieties about your child’s classroom setting you should reach out to school officials.

For parents experiencing severe anxiety, Bergquist suggested seeking the advice of a therapist.

“If you’re really having a hard time and your normal coping mechanisms aren’t working, it’s great to go see a therapist. They’re another person who can help you navigate,” said Dr. Bergquist.

Bergquist said her advice to parents is to stay involved, engaged and flexible, because this school year will undoubtedly be different.

Resources for parents

American Academy of Pediatrics

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction

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"Mindful Headlines" is a news podcast about the Pacific Northwest that explores how our psychology intersects with current events.

The way we interact with our world is influenced by the way we perceive the world. In turn, our collective minds shape the issues that make headlines in our local communities and nationwide.