Coping with back-to-school anxiety

August 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Are you dealing with back-to-school anxiety? Your child probably is, according to the experts. Andrea Weiner, author of "The Best Investment: Unlocking the Secrets of Social Success for Your Child," shares advice on how to help your kids.

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Back-To-School Worries

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?

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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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)

4. 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.

5. 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.


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