It’s back-to-school time and this time of year makes many kids feel anxious. Some are starting school for the first time, while others have new schools, new teachers and new schedules. Feeling anxious and nervous during this time is normal and understandable. Parents can help ease the transition of going back to school with these simple strategies.
1. Start Early. Begin talking about school several weeks before they actually go. Create excitement about the upcoming day by taking them “back-to-school” shopping for school supplies and clothing. Get back in the rhythm of things by reading together, practicing math problems and other school like activities. Talk excitedly about school for several weeks prior. By the time they go to school, hopefully they will be in a routine and comfortable with the idea of going to school.
2. Take a tour of the school and meet teachers. Don’t skip the open house. Your child will realize they know lots of kids there and the opportunity to meet some of their teachers will greatly reduce their stress. Familiarize them with the building. Whether starting kindergarten or middle school, a new building, new hallways and new kids will cause stress to even the most veteran student. For kids that will be switching classrooms, do a walk-through so they know their routes and won’t get lost.
3. Talk to them about bullying. Make sure they understand what it means to be a bully and to be bullied. Walk them through the steps of what to do if they or someone they know are being bullied. Give them a safe, confidential source (school counselor, homeroom teacher, etc.) to go to if they see bullying or are bullied themselves so they know there is support available in the school as well as at home.
4. Include a little note or treat in their lunchbox or backpack. This little gesture will make mom feel a little closer even when she’s not right there.
5. Arrange play dates with future classmates for younger kids. Start organizing the playdates in the summer so they have already formed some friendships before school starts.
6. Remind them that they are not alone in their anxiety. There are plenty of children who will be feeling the same way they are, and they should talk with their friends and teachers about their feelings.
7. Make a couple of trips to the school playground over the summer. This activity will make them feel more comfortable and look forward to recess when school starts. Find out what games are played at recess and play them with your child over the summer so he/she can confidently join in.
8. School bus stress. The school bus might be a stressor for younger kids. Take a few practice rides on a city bus with your child so they get a sense of what it’s like (safety rules, standing in line, not standing up when the bus is in motion, etc.). Ask the school bus company for the route map in advance so you can drive your child through the neighborhood and point out specific landmarks, signs so they should look for so they know which stop is theirs.
9. Be there when they get home the first day. Nothing wipes away anxiety like mom welcoming you home with a special “first day of school” treat. Your child will realize they made it through the first day, and they had fun! Listen to their stories, encourage them to talk, keep things positive and upbeat.
Have a great school year!