Well, somehow the summer has managed to come and go. Now it is that time of year again, time to get ready for back to school. Time to purchase clothes again and time to get those school supplied. Going from our newly accustomed long, lazy summer days back to the rigors of a classroom can be a bumpy road for our children. It’s quite normal for them to experience a range of emotions about returning to school. Each child will respond to going back to school differently. We can take steps to address jitters and make the transition time smoother. Could one of these issues be causing your child’s fears?
Starting at a new school can present a special challenge. Similarly, if your child has recently experienced an upheaval at home, such as moving or divorce, they may be especially susceptible to feeling stressed about returning to school.
If this is the case for your child, asking open-ended questions can give your child the space to figure out their own feelings
A new grade brings new challenges. Perhaps your child will be expected to do homework or write a research paper for the first time. With fears of not measuring up academically, the best defense is a good offense. Getting organized and establishing reassuring routines can go a long way to making a child feel competent.
Sometime rumors of a particularly hard teacher may fuel fearing or disliking a new teacher. Do help your child keep in mind that one person’s dreaded teacher can be another kid’s favorite. It’s okay for your child to express their dislike of a teacher, but they should be expected to remain respectful. Encourage them to be open-minded and approach this as an opportunity to help them learn how to deal with a person she finds difficult. Listen to the issues and plan to attend meetings with the teacher to get your own take on the situation.
A new class roster can mean adjusting without friends who have provided a social base in previous years. Try to present this as an opportunity for your child to widen his group of friends, rather than a tragic loss of familiar faces. Establish time for them to catch up with old friends. A new school or classroom may spark concerns about finding friends at all. Talking to them about other challenging situations that they have successfully navigated also boosts self-esteem.
Most back-to-school anxiety is anticipatory. If the level and type of anxiety seems a marked departure from your child’s usual behavior and lasts well past the beginning of the school year, consider seeking outside help. Start by talking with their teacher. Next, a school counselor or psychologist can provide valuable tips and resources. Anxiety disorders do affect children and are often overlooked because such children do not tend to act out.
It is normal for every child to react to going back to school in her own way. This can make it tempting to apply your own experience to your child’s life. Although harkening back can provide insight, remember that your child is not you. Be calm and matter of fact. Listen and provide reassurance, but try not to heighten anxiety with old memories and good intentions.
In the end, the most important tool you can use is to know your own child. Observe the situation, but try to keep it all in perspective. For most kids, back-to-school jitters will melt away as easily as summer slips into fall.