Change is difficult for all of us. Parents worry about their children’s transition and children worry about what to expect. The following strategies for easing everyone’s anxiety may be helpful:
1. Be sure that you have checked the school’s website for any important dates and materials needed.
2. With your child, determine a plan for getting to and from school (carpool, bus, etc). Some children may feel less anxiety if they have something in writing in addition to being told.
3. Put an index card in your child’s backpack with important names, and numbers. Include your child in deciding what information to put on the card. Let your child choose where he would like to put it (front pocket, notebook, etc)
4. Younger children often benefit from reading books about going to school. (Click here to read some suggestions for rising kindergartners).
5. Older kids do well with “what if” games. Rehearsing various scenarios (funny and serious) will give them a sense of empowerment.
6. Visit the school or at least ride through the parking lot.
7. If possible, arrange a playdate with a child who will be attending the school.
8. If she is starting at a new school, consider letting her take a packed lunch, thereby eliminating a potential source of anxiety.
9. Provide your child with a personal token to carry with her or in her book bag to feel connected to home (necklace, bracelet, family photo, special trinket, notes in lunchbox, etc)
10. Normalize the anxiety. Talk to your child about how it is normal to feel nervous or worried when starting something new. Share personal stories about times you have been nervous when going to a new place and what you did to feel better.
11. Teach him some calm down strategies (deep breathing, counting to 10, telling himself that he can handle it, etc)
12. Remain positive and remind your child of her capabilities. Remember that kids get their cues from the important adults in their lives. If we feel comfortable and ready, there is a better chance that they will too.
This is all easier said than done! The trick is to keep some balance. If you exude too much or too little anxiety your child may become more anxious or feel like you don’t “get it.” If your child does not settle in after a week or so, contact the school counselor or community mental health professional for additional ways to support your child.
Good luck and here’s to a great year!
Edla Prevette, LPCA and Elizabeth Worley, LPCA are therapists with Flip Educational Consulting in Raleigh. With many years of experience as educators and counselors, they specialize in working with school-aged children and their parents on “flipping their thinking,” and learning how to make positive social connections. Flip Educational Consulting provides social skills groups and individual therapy in Cary and Raleigh.
For more back-to-school tips, Prevette and Worley recommend this article on National Association of School Psychologists' website.