The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting yet stressful time for children, with new teachers and classmates, bigger classrooms, new routines and more schoolwork. This time can be particularly stressful and overwhelming for children who are facing major transitions such as starting elementary school or entering middle or high school. As a parent there are important steps you can take to support your child as he or she heads back to school.
- Begin establishing a “back to school” routine prior to the start of school to minimize stress and help with the transition.
- Talk to your child about your expectations as well as his/her expectations for the upcoming school year. Take time to listen to your child and discuss aspects of the new school year that he or she is worried about.
- If you have visited your child’s school already, you are one step ahead of the game. If not, take a walk around the school with your child and locate his or her classrooms, lunchroom, playground and restrooms. This will help keep your child from feeling lost on the first day. When visiting prior to the first day is not an option, if the school has a website, allow your child to visit the site as there may be photos of the classroom, playground, school staff, required school supplies, schedules, other children, etc.
- Remember to let your child know that it’s normal to feel nervous about the start of school. For parents of younger children, suggest that your child take a family photo or special object (with permission from school) to school to make his or her surroundings more comfortable.
- Spend time daily talking to your child about what happened in school. Be open to hearing the good and the not so good. Give your child positive feedback about his or her new experiences.
- Praise and encourage your child to become involved with school activities and to try new things.
- Encourage your child to try to make friends and to be a friend. School is a “social hub” that can be a very lonely place without a friend or two.
- Be proactive in learning about how your child is developing not just physically, but socially and emotionally, as well. If you are aware of what’s typical behavior and thoughts for your child’s stage of life, you will be able to tell more readily when things may not be right.
Anxiety and stress about starting school is normal for a child and usually passes within a few days or weeks. If your child continues to seem anxious or stressed, it may be time to seek help. Talk to your child’s teacher or other classroom-based staff about what you can do as a parent. If problems persist, consider seeking help from a trained and qualified mental health professional.
We offer a variety of group and individual services, which focus on assisting children with school transitions and getting the most out of their educational experience. If you have questions or would like to know more about the services we offer, please contact us at (503) 352-0240.