By Marissa Rodriguez
Whether your little one is entering kindergarten or high school, they are bound to have some anxiety about the coming school year. A few nerves about the big change are usually totally normal, and quite common. Starting a new, more difficult school year with new classes, students and teachers can be stressful for children. Get them ready for the big day with some easy tips that help ease their fears and worries.
- Expect some nerves. During the back to school season, kids are dealing with many changes – summer’s coming to an end, there’s a lot of shopping and busy preparation happening, and they are facing another long school year. So some uneasiness and worry is only natural. Don’t let their jitters catch you off guard. By expecting some anxiety you can be better prepared to handle their worries.
- Don’t dismiss it. You might want to waive away any worries your child has and tell them to simply “stop being nervous”. Don’t do that. It won’t help matters and might even make your child feel like they can’t talk to you about their feelings. Instead, listen. Help where you can, and offer support on issues your child may have to deal with independently.
- Practice and get back into routines. Don’t let the start of school be frantic. Prepare for the new year as thoroughly as possible to avoid last-minute panic. Start waking up earlier as the start of school nears. Ensure school clothes and supplies are ready. Talk over lunch and snack plans. Talk over, and possibly rehearse, any issue that gives your child the jitters.
- Let them know they aren’t alone. Feeling isolated can make nervousness worse. Help them to understand that they aren’t the only ones feeling nervous before the new year. While it might not make nerves disappear completely, they may feel better knowing others are in the same boat.
- Reassure them you will always be there. This is especially important for younger children who may be going to school for the first time. Some may experience separation anxiety or feel scared that parents will forget them or never come back. Some teachers reassure their students by doing family-centered activities, reminding them about pickup procedures or reading books. One popular choice is “The Kissing Hand,” which tells the story of a young raccoon worried about his first day of school. His mom comes up with a solution to ease his fears. Parents can follow suit, reading books about family togetherness and continually reminding them that they will always be there.
- Give them something to look forward to afterschool. Offering to do something fun after the first day of school may just take their mind off the long day ahead and give them something to look forward to. Think of something positive and light, but doesn’t interrupt the evening schedule, like a trip to the playground or getting to play a fun game at home.
- Get a handle on your own anxiety. You can’t expect your child to be without worry if you are a nervous wreck. Even if you have done everything to reassure their fears, children pick up on their parents’ feelings very easily. Your nervous energy could make them even more anxious. So take a deep breath, get calm, and get ready for the new adventure the school year has in store.