Parents ought to pay attention to their own disposition, too: Research suggests emotions are contagious. "If a parent is anxious, their child will be, too," says family psychologist Don MacMannis, who's based in Santa Barbara, Calif. "The brain is a social organ, and it's mirroring people around us. Without being conscious of it, we're reading and experiencing the feelings of others in the family."
[Read: 8 Ways to Become an Optimist.]
If students haven't settled into their daily routine by this point in the school year, that's a sign they need professional help – the anxiety has become too intense and lasted for too long. This typically means cognitive behavioral therapy – a technique that teaches skills for handling life challenges or overcoming negative thoughts – or medication; sometimes, a combination of both. "What this therapy involves is helping kids learn the difference between a situation where there's a real danger – meaning that it makes sense to feel fear – and a situation in which they're getting a false alarm," Lagges says. "Once they can tell the difference, we start working on ways to deal with those false alarms."
The school and teachers play a role, too. They have a responsibility to understand anxiety and school refusal, to provide support and to help promote whatever coping strategy has been decided upon. It's often helpful if teachers stay in touch with parents, alerting them to any red flags. Some schools also set up quiet rooms for recess and lunch and even modify the curriculum.
But what it typically comes down to is getting anxious students to change their thought process, MacMannis says. "There are techniques that teach kids to become the boss of their thoughts," he says. "It's the tale in their head that's the problem, rather than real fears. You have to help kids sort through that."