Summer is coming to an end, meaning that it’s now time to gear up for a new school year! This can often make kids anxious or worried, even if it’s not their first time in school. There are so many unknowns that children can worry about, such as “Who will be in my class?”, “Will I know anyone?” and “Who’ll be my teacher?”.
These worries are normal, but there are some basic steps you can take as a parent to reassure your child and get them ready to start the new school year with their head held high. You can start on some of those today, even before school starts, and others can be continued throughout the school year.
Preparing with Your Kids
During summer, many children get out of their routine of getting up early, eating breakfast, organizing themselves and the things they need for school, and getting out the door on time. Your children aren’t the only ones who need to adjust to a morning routine. It’s important for you and your children to get into a school routine before summer ends.It’s important for you and your children to get into a school routine before summer ends. Click To Tweet
If you can, start this new morning routine a week before school to work out any kinks. Get your children involved and ask them how they feel the routine is going. Include them in planning it. This can help avoid power struggles and gives them more control over how they start their day.
Have them come along with you to pick out their school supplies and talk through what they want for lunch if they’ll be taking their own food. In the beginning, you may want to consider having your child pack their lunch since school cafeterias can be overwhelming – and navigating how to get their lunch can add even more stress to an already stressful situation.
Think about your child’s day from beginning to end and discuss with them how it’ll look so that you can answer any questions they have and make the “unknown” predictable. For example, how will they get to school? Where will they get dropped off? What will their route be once they arrive?
Reaching Out to Their School
Talk to your child’s school about support and strategies they have in place to help children understand and get used to the routine of attending classes. If your child is attending a new school, make sure they know where the nurse, main office, cafeteria, bathrooms and gym are. Walking them through their day before school starts can allow them to practice getting from points A to B. Open houses are great to have your child meet school staff so that they’ll have some familiar faces to talk to.
Leading Up to ClassesDuring the week leading up to school, talk to your child about what to expect. Click To Tweet
During the week leading up to school, talk to your child about what to expect. Also, get them involved in picking out what they want to wear and packing their own bookbag. For older children that have lockers, work with them on how to open combination locks so they feel prepared on how to access them. If opening a lock is a source of extreme stress for your child, talk to their school on ways to avoid this, such as having a key lock or cutting down on the times they would need to go to their locker.
For children that excessively worry, it may be helpful to have them take a small comforting item from home. For example, a small piece of silky cloth that they can hold in their hand when they’re feeling nervous can be done. It’s important to keep in mind that anything they bring to school should be small and discussed with their teacher. Another idea that may be helpful is to talk to your child about being brave and working together to make a “bravery” or “courage” spray.
This can be something harmless, such as an essential oil like lemon or peppermint mixed with water. Sometimes, something simple like this can be helpful for a child. When your child exhibits courage, remember to point out brave behavior and let them know you’re proud.
The Big DayOnce school starts, set aside time to talk with your child about what is worrying them. Click To Tweet
Once school starts, set aside time to talk with your child about what is worrying them. Let them know this is normal and something that other children feel, too. As parents, it’s normal to respond to our children’s worries by saying they have nothing to worry about. This, however, discounts your child’s feelings and gives them false reassurance.
Respond to your child with empathy and engage them in problem-solving and planning. Often, children that excessively worry get stuck thinking about “worst case scenarios” and “what-ifs”. Talk with your child about how they can handle these situations and guide them through problem-solving. This can be done through roleplays that allow them to respond to certain situations and practice-coping skills.
Reinforcing ConfidenceGoing back to school can be a big transition for children that may take some time to adjust to. Click To Tweet
Going back to school can be a big transition for children that may take some time to adjust to. If your child is struggling with getting back into a routine or starting school, get their school involved. Simple things like giving your child a job or task to do when they arrive can be helpful in avoiding a stressful drop-off situation.
Although some fears and worries are normal, excessive worrying can be concerning, especially when it leads to tantrums, crying, school avoidance or physical symptoms like stomach pains. These behaviors can be stressful and hard to handle as a parent. It’s important to remember that giving into your child’s anxiety and worry only reinforces these thoughts and feelings, leaving your child with the impression that there is something to fear at school. Attending school allows your child to gather evidence that their fears are unrealistic so that they can challenge their thoughts.
Here for You and Your Child
If your child is having difficulties attending school, then our licensed psychologists in Tampa can help. Our team has experience working with children and providing them with the skills needed to cope with and challenge their fears so that they can enjoy their academic period. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.