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Many of you are getting ready to send the kiddos back to school. This can be a bittersweet experience for both parents and children. Summer may have brought about extra family time and spontaneous moments. Some are ready for a more regular routine; others may wish summer was their normal routine.
Regardless of your situation, any change in routine can cause mixed emotions in a child, with anxiety being a very common one. This is especially true for children going to school for the first time. Beginning a new grade in a new classroom with a new teacher can also cause anxiety and stress for many kids. Here are some tips on how to minimize back-to-school anxiety and help your kids return to school feeling a bit more confident.
Validate their feelings
Acknowledge how your child feels and listen to their concerns. Reassure them that it’s perfectly normal to be anxious about starting a new school year. Going to school for the first time or being in a new classroom with a new teacher can be scary. If possible, give them an example of a change you experienced that caused you worry. Explain that although change is difficult, it’s also exciting. They will meet new friends and learn new things. Tell them you can’t wait to hear all about their first day, week, etc.
Ease back into the routine
A week or so before school begins, start preparing your children for their new school routine. You can do this by gradually moving up their bedtime to what is appropriate for school hours and getting them up earlier in the mornings as well. If they have been hanging out in pajamas all morning, have them get dressed first thing. If they have been snacking all day during the summer, try following their school mealtime schedule instead. Anything you can do to limit the number of sudden routine changes that happens on the first day of school will benefit them (and you)!
Talk about what to expect
Kids like to know what they will be experiencing. If your child is going to school for the first time, it’s important to let them see the school and classroom beforehand. Meet the new teacher and spend some time discussing rules and behavior expectations. Those returning back to school should also visit with their new teacher and familiarize themselves with their new classroom. They may be anxious about not knowing their new classmates, so finding out about any friends who are in the same class or setting up a play date with a new classmate before school starts is also a great idea. Knowing what to expect and seeing familiar faces will make it a much easier transition.
Get them involved
Help your child get more excited about school by making them a part of the preparations. Allow them to choose what they want to wear. Have them help pack their lunch. Let them fill their backpacks with supplies. Maybe they want to decorate their pencil case or notebook. The more involved a child is, the better.
Provide them with an emotional outlet
Every one of us needs an outlet for relieving stress and anxiety. Whether it’s art, exercise, breathing, meditation, etc., there is something that can help us calm down. Make sure your child knows you are available to listen to them whenever necessary, and help them find out what brings them calmness. Some ideas include yoga, journaling, drawing, painting, and simply talking to someone.
Most kids should show significantly less signs of stress and anxiety after a few weeks of school. If they persist and seem to interfere with daily life, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.