Tips for Easing your Child's Back to School Stress

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Do you remember the roller coaster of emotions that you experienced as a child when the day for going back to school approached? You were probably disappointed that the summer had come to an end. At the same time, you may have been excited that you would be seeing friends that you hadn’t seen all summer. A feeling of anxiousness may have been present because you weren’t exactly sure what the school year would bring.

Today’s kids are no different that we were at that age. Their emotions run rampant as the first day of the school year approaches. Most kids have a hard time making the back to school transition. Whether they are entering kindergarten, attending a new school, or moving to a new classroom and teacher, there is a fear of the unknown. It’s not uncommon for students of all ages to experience anxiety and nervousness as the beginning of another school year approaches. Now you can ease your child’s back to school fears by talking to them about their feelings and giving them time to adjust to their new schedule. They will be back in the swing of things within a couple of weeks.

Helping Kids Cope

Explain that everyone, including parents and teachers suffer from anxiety and nervousness when the new school year is at hand. Tell them that their friends are experiencing the same back to school jitters as they are.

Focus on positive aspects of back to school, such as meeting new classmates, hanging out with friends, purchasing and showing off a new back to school wardrobe and buying new school supplies.

Have children share their fears with you and offer them reassurance. Are they fearful of meeting last year’s school bully? Are they concerned they will be assigned to a teacher they dislike? Be sure your child knows that whatever they’re feeling, you are there to offer unconditional love and support.

Consider adjusting your schedule so you will be home to greet your kids when they arrive home from school. This should continue for at least two weeks. If being home isn’t possible, find a relative or neighbor that can stay with them until you get home. Take time in the evening to talk to them about their day. This will give them a window of opportunity to voice any concerns or fears.

Arrange time to visit the school before classes start, especially if your child will be attending a new school. A quick tour will help to ease their fears. Many schools partner new students with a buddy until they get acquainted with their new schedule and their peers.

Two weeks before school starts, regulate your child’s bedtime routine to a school night routine. Be sure your child gets lots of sleep to ensure he will be alert and ready to cope with his new schedule.

Children should always eat a nutritious breakfast before they leave for school. Research has proven that children who have a healthy breakfast have the best grades.

Write down the time that classes start, when lunchtime begins, their homeroom number, their locker combination and the name of their teacher. Carrying this information will put your child’s mind at ease.

Record the dates when assignments are due on a calendar that is easily accessible by your child. Also note dates of exams, tests and extra curricular activities.

Teach children to set out clothing the night before. Homework should be put into their backpacks and set by the door. This alleviates morning chaos.

It’s very normal for kids to be jittery about returning to school. However, if you feel your child’s worries are excessive, talk to him and try to find why. If his fears border on panic, seek help from the school principal, his teacher or a school counselor.

Back to School Checklist

To make the back to school transition easier for both you and your child, use this back to school checklist.

Be sure you child follows the school’s dress code if there is one.

Your child should have a change of clothes and shoes for gym class.

Purchase a lightweight backpack. The shoulder straps should be padded and it should have several compartments.

Teach your child to store his backpack safely when he arrives at school. Children should not carry valuables in their backpack.

If your child will be buying lunch at school, make a lunch budget and allocate his money each morning. Do not give children lunch money for a week. It is too tempting and they will spend it.

Stock up on school supplies. Pens, pencils, markers, paper and binders should always be on hand to meet your child’s needs.

Medical Needs

Be sure your child’s immunization records are up to date.

Fill out all forms that the school sends home. Be sure the school has an emergency contact number and your child’s health information.

Make certain your child’s teacher and the school has a record of any existing medical conditions, such as allergies, asthma, diabetes or epilepsy. Leave specific instructions on how these conditions are to be managed if an emergency occurs.

If your child must take medication during the school day, arrange for it to be administered by the school nurse. Children should never carry medication.

If your child has a condition or disorder that challenges his learning ability, be sure to inform his teacher. Examples would be ADD, ADHD, vision impairment, Asperger Syndrome etc.

Transportation and Safety Issues

Be certain your child knows what time classes begin and how to get to the school.

If your child will be riding the school bus, check with the bus company to find out what where and what time he will be picked up and dropped off.

Review traffic safety with your child. If he walks to school, arrange for a group of peers to walk together. There is safety in numbers.

Review Stranger Danger with your child. Explain that rides, candy and other things should never be accepted from strangers. Let you child know who they are allowed to leave the school with. Also advise them not to go anywhere with a stranger that says you are ill or injured. Let the child know that if something like this should occur, who will be picking him up.

If you won’t be home when your child arrives, arrange a safe place for him to stay.

Teenagers should have a specific time that they are to arrive home. If you won’t be there, have your teen check in with a neighbor. If that isn’t possible, or if he says it’s embarrassing, have him give you a quick call at work so you know he’s arrived home safely.

Give children of all ages specific emergency instructions.

Explain that the door should never be opened to a stranger.

If possible, arrange for your child or teen to attend an after school program.

In order for your child to have a positive back to school experience, keep the lines of communication open and always listen carefully when he speaks of his fears and concerns. Children don’t always say exactly what’s on their minds and you may have to learn to read between the lines.

Assure your child that the most important goal that he can set for himself during the school year is to apply himself and do his best. That is all that anyone can ask. If he does well, praise him. If he is struggling, show him love and support at all times. If you do, you will be amazed at how smooth the back to school transition and the school year unfolds.

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