What to do about your child’s back-to-school anxieties and ailments

Dr. Harley Eisman, Director of The Montreal Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department says parents can help ease kids’ anxieties and health concerns by establishing a routine, and monitoring their behaviour.
The beginning of a new school year can create anxiety in young children that can sometimes turn into new health complaints.
Dr. Harley Eisman, Director of The Montreal Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department sees a great deal of patients at this time of year, and says that unlike adults, young children can have trouble expressing their feelings of anxiety. “Grade school kids will sometimes have body complaints that may include loss of appetite, stomach issues, sleeping problems that may include nightmares,” he says, “while other children may be able to verbalize their anxiety, by saying that they feel “off” or different.” 
What can parents do to make their child feel more at ease? Dr. Eisman starts by advising what not to do. “Parents shouldn’t make kids feel like they have a problem if they say they’re not feeling well.” The arrival of a new school year or the first few visits to a new daycare means a new environment, and certainly a new routine. The best way to prepare a child for the transition is to go through the next day’s events the night before, and establish a routine or a schedule for the day ahead. “It’s important to let the child know that someone is taking charge and organizing the day for them,” he says.
If a child seems like he or she may not be well enough to go to school or to daycare, Dr. Eisman says that a parent’s intuition is usually quite accurate. “However, if a child is playing, active, drinking and eating, but has a sniffle, they can certainly go to school. On the other hand, if they are lethargic, not responding, not seeming themselves and the parent feels they won’t be able to get through the school day, then there is no point in sending them to school.”
While fever may be a legitimate concern and a reason for keeping children away from the classroom, Dr. Eisman says that it isn’t always necessary to keep them at home. “Generally, if a child is doing well and is exhibiting mild fever symptoms, it is safe to send them to school,” he says.
As the winter months approach, and in cases where the flu is suspected, Dr. Eisman says that an ER visit is not necessary unless a child is acting sluggish, or is not reacting normally. “A mild fever or a flu can be treated at home with plenty of fluids, rest and chicken soup,” he confirms.
For more information about fevers, colds and flu symptoms in children, consult the following articles: