It’s not unusual for even the most confident kids to have worries associated with heading back to school. New teachers, new expectations, new classroom – there are a lot of unknowns when entering a new school year. Anxieties can grow even more intense when a child is starting a new school. How can parents help?
Be Prepared. Worries breed when we are unprepared. Do you have a list of school supplies, clothing, and other materials that need to be purchased? Try shopping well ahead of time so that you aren’t scrambling at the last second. When you are prepared and relaxed – your kids will follow.
Dress Rehearsals are Good. I’m a big fan of practicing events about which we are worried. A few days or a couple weeks before the big day, try a dress rehearsal. Have your child dress in their back to school outfit, eat a typical school day breakfast, pack their lunch, grab their backpack, and head off to school. Make a fun event out of it. If your school allows for a visit before classes start – do it! It can help ease worried minds to be able to visualize the hallways and classrooms in which they will learning.
Don’t Say “Don’t Worry.” None of us wants our kids to worry or be stressed. So when your son says, “Mom, I’m nervous about the first day of school” most of us answer by saying, “It’ll be fine! Don’t be worried!” But in the interest of encouraging our kids to talk to us, a better response might be: “What are you worried about?” This will give your child the opportunity to explain their worries, so that you can respond appropriately. A conversation might go like this:
Child: “Mom, I’m nervous about the first day of school.”
Parent: “What are you feeling nervous about?”
Child: “I’m afraid I won’t know anyone with my lunch period and I will have to sit alone.”
Parent: “I can see why you’d be worried about that. Let’s come up with some ideas about what to do if that happens.”
Child: “I don’t know what to do!”
Parent: “Could you sit with a teacher? Sit next to someone else sitting alone?”
Child: “Yea, maybe I could sit next to someone else who’s alone.”
Parent: “Great! Sounds like a good plan.”
Perhaps the most important thing about helping your child learn to manage worries is to check in after the first day is over. See how it went. Was there a reason to worry, or not? How did they cope with the lunch room situation? If the day was a success, use it to build confidence for the next worrisome situation. If it wasn’t, try brainstorming more solutions for a better outcome.