Many children in NJ struggle with anxiety when they return to school

If your son or daughter is having trouble getting back to a regular routine or engaging in weird and sometimes scary behaviors, you are not alone.

During the COVID update in Trenton on Wednesday, Christine Norbut Beyer, commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, said getting our kids back to pre-COVID habits isn’t necessarily quick or easy, and like as the pandemic continues, it may be further complicated by feelings of stress, anxiety and fear.

She said that for the first part of this month, the volume of calls to the childcare system hotline is on the rise and mobile response mailings have increased by 30% compared to the same period in recent years.

“We are getting more calls in the morning with parents indicating an increase in school refusal or avoidance behaviors,” she said.

Beyer noted that some of the signs of serious behavioral health problems in children can include “prolonged or recurring opposition and aggression, property damage and disrespect, and feelings of anxiety or depression.”

She said parents may also notice “a prolonged pattern or lie and fighting, theft or substance use, or leakage or self-harm.”

She said help is available by calling the New Jersey Children’s System of Care hotline at 1-877-652-7624.

And thanks to the Second Floor program, she said children can get help on their own to talk about their problems or concerns.

“Tweens, teens and young adults aged 10-24 can call 1-888-222-2228 or visit,” she said.

The commissioner said that right now in Jersey we are experiencing a sort of parallel pandemic of emotional health issues among young people, with some children struggling to return to in-person education and experiencing behavioral and emotional challenges, he said. It is therefore important to get help.

“Our network of youth behavioral health service providers have the resources, skills and capacity to help youth and their families when needed,” she said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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