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Helping Kids Cope with Anxiety

This time of year, a key stressor for children and teens involves returning to the classroom, particularly when transitioning from a familiar setting to a new one, for example from elementary school to middle school or high school to college. While for many the transition will be smooth, some may face anxiety that requires intervention.

“Change is a particular anxiety trigger for children, and adults as well, for that matter,” says Lauren de Mars, LPC, Clinical Manager for Child/Adolescent Programs at Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health in North Brunswick. “In addition to academic changes, family dynamic changes like divorce or remarriage cause stress. And then they face issues with bullying, fear of gun violence in the schools, and social media pressures.”

Make Time to Talk Talking with a child about their concerns, with openness and nonjudgment, is the first step in dealing with anxiety. If continued signs of trouble present themselves, such as exhibiting isolating behaviors, slipping grades, irritability, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and losing interest in activities they once enjoyed, professional help may be needed.

“Parents may be contacted by their child’s school alerting them that there are behavioral changes, and the school may be able to make recommendations on where help is available,” says de Mars. “The child’s doctor may also be able to recommend a therapist. For children and adolescents who need additional help, Princeton House offers programs specifically designed to meet their needs.”

“Our job is to teach them the skills they can use to cope with their emotions,” says de Mars. “These are skills they can apply to the ups and downs we all experience throughout our lives.”

In addition to learning the skills to cope with anxiety, children discuss current issues of concern as part of group sessions, to help bring a sense of unity and understanding to their anxieties. Another portion of the programs brings together families to provide added support and help implement changes at home.

For more information about Princeton House Behavioral Health’s programs for adolescents, visit princetonhouse.org/teen, or call 888.431.1610 to speak with an outpatient admissions clinician.

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