It’s that time of year again and we are quickly approaching back to school time. It always seems so hard to believe and everyone has the same question, “where did summer go??” Regardless, summer has come and gone as fast as it usually does and what lies ahead is the hustle and bustle of getting kids ready to go back to school. For some kids, the transition back into school is no problem. Some are excited to see their friends, they look forward to meeting their new teacher, and they enjoy the freedom of being away from home. Others, however, sometimes don’t tend to have such a positive outlook on going back to school. For some children and teens, going back to school becomes a dread and becomes a fear that is constantly on their mind, even weeks before it happens. If you’re child falls into this category, have no fear, here are some ideas to help make the transition a bit easier and to help eliminate those worries.
First off, let’s talk about how to help your child alleviate their stress of going back to school and general strategies you can use.
1.) Create a positive attitude for your child. Encourage your child to find the positives of going back to school, even if it’s the little things. Pointing out positives such as meeting new friends, learning new things, recess, and extra curricular groups may help an anxious child have something to look forward to. Or, it can be beneficial to ask your child to list three things they are looking forward to. These could be things as simple as, “I look forward to eating my snack each day that has a note from you attached to it”, or even just identifying their favorite subject, etc. If you can somehow incorporate the positives into your child’s mindset, this may help them to look forward to school a little more.
2.) Encourage your child to speak openly with you about their fears and their worries. It’s important to make sure your child doesn’t feel judged or foolish for the way they are feeling. Let your children know that it is normal to have fears of going back to school. Any kind of transition can be scary and it’s important to make sure your child does not feel alone. This way, your child will feel relieved knowing they have your support and that you understand their concerns.
3.) Problem solve and plan with your child. Instead of reassuring your child that everything will be okay, try to develop strategies your child can use if they do become upset at school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to reassure at times, but on top of this, it can be helpful to prepare your child on how to handle stressful situations at school. For instance, you may ask your child, “If A and B were to happen, how do you think you should handle it? What are some things you could try to help get rid of that fear?” You and your child may then come up with solutions such as bringing a stress ball to school, taking a break in the bathroom to take a few deep breaths, talking to their teacher, or having a note from mom and dad each day that brings reassurance, etc. The ideas are endless, but having a solution in place may help your child feel more at ease knowing they have a back up plan!
4.) For a younger child, create a social story. A social story is something that can be used to help a younger child prepare for starting school and what to expect. A social story is a series of pages that have a picture on each page that depicts what is going to happen. Since most children are visual learners, this is an extremely helpful tool. For instance, for a child that may be starting kindergarten, it would be helpful to have a book that has pictures of their school on it, pictures of what their classroom looks like, and pictures of their teachers. The first page may say, “In 3 days, I’m going to kindergarten. This is what my school looks like!” – insert picture of school. The second page may say something along the lines of, “When I get to my new school, I will also have a new classroom!” You may then also have pictures of classmates or a picture of the playground so that the child not only knows what to expect, but can also start developing some excitement.
So, now that you’ve addressed some of your children’s concerns, it’s time to start preparing your child (and yourself) for the first few days of school. Here are a few things to keep in mind and helpful tactics you can use.
1.) Make sure your child starts developing a routine a week before school starts. This means starting a new bedtime routine. Have your child go to bed at earlier times and begin to set an alarm clock in the morning for them to wake up to. This will allow their bodies to adjust to getting up earlier for school and therefore it won’t be too much of a shock in the upcoming weeks.
2.) Have your child suggest a choice of foods that they may enjoy having for lunch while at school. This will help you to prepare what to make them for the weeks ahead and it will help to eliminate any unwanted frustrations. A full stomach will make for a happy child. 🙂
3.) Go on a fun back to school shopping trip. Help your child pick out folders, lunch box, and backpack that will excite them for school. Perhaps even offer to buy them a nice outfit so that they feel confident on their first day back!
4.) A few days before school, drive by the school and let your children know where the drop-off/pick-up points will be. If your child takes the bus, get them accustomed to the bus stop and the route that the bus will take to school. This will help to alleviate stress about the unknown. Also, if your child is going to a new school, it may be beneficial to take them to the school ahead of time to show them their classroom, the cafeteria, the playground, library, etc.
5.) If your child is dealing with any type of separation anxiety, it can be a good idea to allow your child to go to school with something that brings them comfort. This may be a picture of the family or a favorite stuffed animal. Encourage your child to bring something that reminds them of home and will help them to feel at ease.
Keep in mind that all children and adolescents are different, but these are at least some general guidelines you can use when prepping for the first day back to school. Whether or not your child is anxious, it can still be of benefit to use a few of these suggestions to help make for successful transitions overall. It’s also important to remember that not all children and/or adolescents are able to express their concerns about school. Hence, remember to talk to your children and encourage them to communicate about how their feeling. A child or adolescent that appears fine on the outside, may still be struggling with some fears and anxiety deep down inside. So talk to your children and find out what they need from you. Most importantly, keep a positive attitude and praise your child for pushing past their fears and being strong! Here’s wishing everyone out there a safe, happy, and smooth transition into the 2017/2018 school year!