It’s school time again! There is often a flurry of activity in preparation for school starting, and a range of emotions experienced by kids (and their parents too!) as part of the back-to-school transition. Kids, for example, may feel nervous excitement about reuniting with friends, interacting with their new teachers, and finding their way around the classroom. Parents may welcome the consistent routine, but may be anxious about the how their child will adjust to the change and higher responsibility that comes with entering a new grade.
Enjoy the last few days of summer break; consider the following strategies to minimize back-to-school stress with a focus on the positive:
- Re-cap the days of summer. Talk and laugh with your kids about the things you’ve enjoyed most this summer. Consider compiling photos into a scrapbook or write a story about the places you visited. In other words: bring summer to a close. Shift into family plans and goals for the fall season; there is a lot to look forward to!
- Talk to kids about what worries them, such as making friends, homework, or using the bathroom. Validate their specific concerns. Offer reassurance and remind them of positive school memories from past years. Let them know that teachers make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
- Get orientated. Most schools offer social activities and formal orientations early in the school year to give kids and families opportunities to learn more about each other and their specific classes. Becoming familiar with the people and environment can help to relieve stress. Ask if a school map is available or if your child can be paired up with another student, or ‘buddy,’ to help adjust to new people and surroundings.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine. Adequate sleep helps to reduce morning crankiness. Provide the opportunity for your child to wind down before bed, especially if your child has become used to playing outside until dark. Practice getting up early a week before school begins.
- Rehearse and write down the need-to-know information and put it with your child’s personal belongings. This should include your address and phone number, name and number of an emergency contact, and might also include teacher and bus driver names and locker combinations.
- Review drop-off and pick-up procedures with your child. Make sure your child knows where he or she needs to go and what needs to be done after school. If possible, do a ‘practice run’ prior to the first day of school. Set up a buddy system with another family in the neighborhood.
Allow kids time to adjust. Remind them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it will become an everyday routine in no time. Adjust your own schedule as possible. Give your kids more of your time in the evenings, especially during those first few days.
Although it’s normal to be anxious in any new situation, some kids develop physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches associated with the start of school. If you are concerned that your child’s worries go beyond the normal back-to-school jitters, speak with your child’s doctor, teacher, or school counselor.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids Health, National Association for the Education of Young Children, LifeWork Strategies EAP, the Reginald S. Lourie Center, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals.For medical advice, consult your physician.