(Meredith) – Believe it or not, back-to-school time is just around the corner, and that means feelings of stress and anxiety might be starting to show. However, there are ways to help ease worries for both you and your child.

Brandi Broxson, features editor at Real Simple, said gearing up for yet another school year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has left many parents worrying about what the school year will look like.

But as with anything else, preparation is the key to success and easing worries. Broxson said the first step for parents is to listen and watch for common signals of a stressed or anxious child, like difficulty sleeping, headaches, and changes in behavior.

“Most adults can recognize when they’re feeling stressed or anxious, but that’s not always the case with teens and kids,” Broxson said.

Another thing you can do to help your child is to really listen to what’s going on with them. Broxson suggests starting a conversation casually over dinner or in the car to check in on them. She also suggests playing the “rose-and-thorn game,” where everyone shares their “rose,” or what went well that day, and then everyone shares their “thorn,” or what didn’t go so well. This is an easy way for kids to open up about any struggles they are having.

Broxson also said to always trust your instincts if your child doesn’t seem to be themselves.

“Encourage your child to talk about what is bothering them; sometimes expressing their feelings is all they need to feel better,” she said.

One thing you can do to help your child feel less worried and more prepared for school is to foster familiarity. You can talk them through what they might expect to see inside the classroom, cafeteria, gym, etc., to help them become more acclimated to new routines and unfamiliar surroundings. You can also take a few trips to and from the school in the late summer, just to get your child in the routine of making the trip.

“You can take a couple of late-summer field trips to and from school – especially if it’s a new school – to begin to foster that routine that will soon become normal when school is back in session. And even if your kid is returning to the same school, a pre-first day trip can help them feel more connected and even build excitement,” Broxson said.

Another great idea is to get in the habit of taking walks as a family in the neighborhood, maybe after dinner, Broxson suggested.

“Not only will they get some fresh air and exercise, but it’s a really great opportunity to bond and ask [your child] about their day,” she said. "You can also try meditation as a whole family, it can help a lot with anxiety for parents and kids."

For more back-to-school tips for both you and your child, pick up a copy of Real Simple magazine or visit realsimple.com.

Real Simple is owned by the parent company of this news station, The Meredith Corporation.

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