08/26/2016 11:23 EDT | Updated 08/26/2016 11:59 EDT

School Anxiety: Surprising Signs Your Kid Is Uneasy About Going Back

Parenting expert Alyson Schafer helps decode your child’s behaviour.

This week I ended up in the walk-in clinic with my daughter. She was tired, achy and had sore muscles and a tight chest. She thought it felt like pneumonia. After all of the rule outs, it was decided she might have some flu-type symptoms, but she was basically told to wait it out and treat the symptoms so she felt better.

Do you know what I think would make her feel better? Not having to go back to school!

My other daughter suffers from eczema, and this week her hands ruptured into red raw blisters again. Did I mistakenly add dairy into something I served her? I reviewed everything and am completely sure there were no dietary slip ups. So why the flare up now? Was it a dairy allergy, or could it be that school is around the corner?

I am not trying to say my kids are fakes or hypochondriacs. Quite the opposite. I am always astounded at the body jargon or physical expression of stress. Stress gives us high blood pressure, tight muscles and exacerbates eczema. Psoriasis can be treated by meditating, which is actually the perfect antidote to stress.

So what might your children be "saying" to you about their stress and anxiety about returning to school? Here are seven surprising signs to look out for:

1. Sleep disturbances

Are your children experiencing any change from their normal sleep routines? Trouble falling asleep? Early waking or an unwillingness to get up? Are they reporting unusual nightmares? Any of these can be yellow flags that your child is experience some tensions in their life.

2. Appetite changes

Stress can either shut down our appetite or do the complete opposite – we eat for calm and comfort. Have your children had any recent changes in their eating habits? Hmm, another yellow flag.

3. Avoidance

Anxious children don’t like to focus their attention on the things that stress them out. So if your child is dodging the topic of school and discussion about back-to-school shopping or who they are going to walk to school with on the first day, they might be wishing it would all just go away.

4. Self-soothing

It’s a beautiful thing when we discover ways to soothe ourselves. Some children suck on their thumb, twirl their hair or, if you are like me, audibly sigh. If you know what soothing behaviours your child has a habit of doing, see if there is an increase in that behaviour.

5. Clingy

Often feelings of anxiety and uncertainty make children want to reach for the calm reassurance of their parents’ arms. If your child is especially needy of touch, affection and closeness, or is clingy in nature overall, they may be feeling mounting stress.

6. Hyperactivity

Anxiety is often confused with the hyperactivity of ADHD. It’s common for children who are anxious to bounce about and shift their focus. Adults do this, too. Watch for anyone who bounces their leg while they are sitting.

7. Explosive episodes

Disruptive kids who are aggressive and prone to melt down can also be experiencing anxious feelings, but are responding to them in inappropriate outbursts. It’s hard for children to identify their emotions or explain what is happening for them inside emotionally. When things aren’t going their way they may rage or bawl and collapse.

If your children are experiencing any of these signs, the best course of action is to be empathetic, normalize their feelings and share your own experiences. Remind them of their own past experiences that turned out okay and ask them what you can do to help sooth them. What is calming to one child may not be to another.

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