With the bell of the new school year getting ready to ring and the end of a long, leisurely summer coming soon, parents can begin to address some of the common back-to-school anxieties that most children deal with, regardless of age. Typically, dealing with the unknown or uncertainty is the real underlying cause for most of the school related jitters. What are the most common back-to-school worries that most kids think about? It can range the gambit from what to wear the first day of school to how to remember the combination on their new school locker.
Back to school worries are very common and parents can help their children deal with them by being proactive prior to the first day of school. Helping children develop strong social and emotional skills can help counter many of these back-to-school worries. Some of the common school worries are:
- Will my teacher(s) be nice?
- Who is going to be in my class(s) and will I like them or will they like me?
- How will I know where the classroom, bathroom, cafeteria is and not get lost around the school?
- Will I be able to do the school work?
Strategies to Deal with the Back-to-School Transition
So how can parents effectively deal with these and other back-to-school concerns? There are several things that can be done from a social and emotional perspective that can help them make a smooth transition back to school:
- Getting familiar with new situations - Every new school year brings a new classroom setting. Talk to your child about their concerns and reassure them that it's normal to feel a bit uneasy in new situations. When kids know what to expect, new situations and people seem less scary for them. Especially for students starting school for the first time, visit the school beforehand so they can see their new classroom, walk down the hallways, and see where the bathrooms and cafeteria are.
- Learning to relate to new people - Similar to being in a new classroom setting, having a different teacher than the year before and meeting new classmates can feel intimidating. Now is a great opportunity to introduce and practice important social skills to help them relate to new people. Role play with them conversational starters to use with new friends like, " My summer was a lot of fun. Tell me about yours!" or " I like your back pack. Where did you get it?" Talk about things that they can share with friends like snacks or activities to do together.
- Focus on the positive aspects - It's always easier when a child can focus on something to look forward to. Rev up the enthusiasm by helping them concentrate on picking out new school supplies or purchasing a new back-to-school outfit. Talk about the fun activities that he/she might be doing in the upcoming school year (Halloween Parade, school trips, etc)
- Practice getting into routines - Going back to school means no more late nights or sleeping late. Practice and do a few dry runs of the back- to -school routine before the first day of school by helping them pick out their clothes the night before, go to bed earlier, waking up at the designated time, and getting out the door by a certain time. Routines help a child understand what is expected.
- Allay schoolwork performance anxiety - Kids often worry about how they will measure up academically and the level of difficulty of their new grade. Reassure your child that you and the teacher are available to assist them if needed. Stress the importance of effort verses performance on grades and the value of learning to just learn. By supporting both their failures and successes, it can take off the stress of their new academic workload.
Ask Dr. Andie
Questions can be submitted through the website and if possible, will be answered either in the Q&A section or in the Power2Relate Newsletter.
My daughter is starting the 2nd grade this Fall and is already worried that her new teacher won't like her. She had a wonderful experience in 1st grade and had a positive relationship with her last year's teacher. Why is she worried about this?
Every year when children start a new grade not only do they experience having to get used to a new classroom, but they also have to get to know their new teacher. After a whole year with a teacher, students get to know what the teacher likes or doesn't like, what the teacher's expectations are of them, and the rules of the classroom which he/she represents. Every Fall, children have to start all over again with a new person and the initial anxiety is not knowing what is expected of them. All children want their teacher to like them since they feel validated by this. However, what is more important, and what you can discuss with your daughter, is the kind of student she would like to be. It will take off the stress off of worrying whether a teacher likes her or not. The important thing is how she feels about herself. Help her come up with a list of positive student attributes like being a good listener, one that can follow directions, be helpful to her classmates and to others in the school, be caring, get her school work done on time, and to ask for help if she gets stuck on difficult homework.
Check out our the new website: http://www.drandie.com. The new website now is more expanded and has an exciting new section called Hot Social Topics. This is where parents can click on and either listen or read about discussions between Dr. Andie and other parents on relevant social topics happening to today's children. Now Parent Investors have another resource to help guide them with the ever changing world that will affect today's children both socially and emotionally.
For more information on how children can make friends especially in this time of going back to school and having new classmates, read a recent article written by Heather Van Goss who interviewed Dr. Andie. Go to: http://www.education.com/magazine/article/fearless-friend-making-tips-child.