How to help a child with anxiety about going back to school
Starting school is scary. Whether your child is going to school for the first time or they’re seasoned veterans, first days are not always smooth sailing. Summer is over. Children experience a vast array of emotions from sweaty palms to anxiety. Starting school, making friends, a new classroom, a new teacher or even a new building are worrisome to young people. Having anxiety about going back to school is common.
Nerves, jitters, or anxiety are normal emotions for kids of all ages when going back to school. To ease reintroduction to the school year here are tips to calm those nerves. In addition, a book list to share stories about going to school.
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Tips on how to help a nervous child when going back to school
1- Talk and Prepare
Talk with your child and importantly, listen to them. Ask what’s bothering them or what they are worried about. Be sure to acknowledge their fears and concerns. It’s hard for children to always express their feelings. If they may not be able to express to you what’s wrong. That’s ok. Reassure your child and let them know that it’s ok to be nervous. It’s completely normal to feel this way when going back to school.
Discuss with your child 2-3 weeks before school starts about the upcoming changes. Drive to the school so they can see it. Show them which door they will walk through and where you will pick them up. If they take the bus then bring them to the bus stop. Do this a few times so they are familiar by the time the first day rolls around.
Once you know your child’s teacher mention it each day. Even briefly you can say “Mrs. Smith would love to hear that you read new books this summer”. If your child is in preschool have them draw a picture of their school.
2- Have your child help in the getting ready process
Let your child pick out their backpack and lunchbox. A favorite character or bright colors will make it more exciting for them. Take your child with you for back to school clothes. This allows them to have some independence and find something they want to wear. Kids will have an easier time getting dressed in the morning when they’ve chosen what they can wear. Have your child put all the supplies in their bag and help label them.
Allowing your children to be involved in the process will help them feel more in control. When you have a sense of control it helps to take away the nerves.
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3-Start a routine early
Don’t wait till the night before to have a bedtime again. Gradually ease into a school routine two weeks before the first day. Go back to having a regular bedtime, a time they wake up, eating and getting dressed in the morning.
Reestablish morning and nighttime routines. It takes time to readjust to following a schedule again. Bedtimes, getting dressed and routines are essential for a successful school year.
Reach out to other parents to see if your kids have the same teacher this. If your child is older have them reach out to see who they have classes with and discuss schedules.
It’s a common fear of not knowing anybody in a new situation. Knowing that (Brian, Mike or Emma) will be in the same class will help release some anxiety. It allows your child to picture these children in class with them. It doesn’t have to be a close friend (that would be terrific). Any other peer that they know or friend helps ease the transition.
Read books to show how others were nervous or scared about starting school. Discuss that many kids feel the same way. Nervous about school starting is a common fear at any age.
Here is a book list that’s perfect for discussing starting school with kids.
Fabulous Books about being nervous when starting school
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
First Day of School Jitters by Julie Danneberg
Curious George First Day of School by H.A. Rey
Clifford’s First Day of School by Norman Bridwell
Clifford’s Goes to Kindergarten by Norman Bridwell
The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
The Night Before Kindergarten by Nathasha Wing
Daniel Goes to School (Daniel Tiger) by Becky Friedman
Kindergarten Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg
The Berenstain Bears Get Ready for School by Mike Berenstain
The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Stan Berenstain
The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna
Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish
Little Critter: First Day of School
Wemberly Worried Paperback by Kevin Henkes
Read these books each year a few weeks before school starts. Get the kids back into a daily routine and ready for school. Following the strategies above will help starting school easier for you and your child.
What are some things you do at home to prepare for a new school year?
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