Back to school time can introduce a flurry of emotions – sadness in summer ending, anticipation of seeing classmates and teachers, and excitement for new clothes and school supplies. But to some students, the end of summer can also initiate back to school fears, from attending a new school, to new routines, new teachers, peer issues and more. If, instead of excitement, your child is anxious and nervous about the coming school year, here are some ways to help ease your child’s back to school fears:
1. New buildings – To ease your child’s fears about new buildings, ask to tour the school building with the principal, secretary or guidance counselor before your child goes back to school. Find the school’s website and learn about the faculty and different programs offered. Try reading through the school handbook with your child. Becoming familiar with the new building – and reminding them that soon it’ll feel “normal” – will help ease your child’s fears.
2. New teachers – Meeting new teachers can, understandably, be scary for kids. To alleviate your child’s nervousness, attend your school’s Open House, visit the teacher’s classroom web page, or help your child email their teacher over the summer. Find older kids who have had the same teachers and ask them to reassure your child and set accurate expectations.
3. Changes in routine – Some kids don’t take change very easily, but you can help them adapt to their new schedule by planning ahead. Read over their class schedule together, and discuss in detail how their day will go, and what they should expect. Begin your back to school routines well before summer is over, so you can get the morning wake-up and bath and bedtime procedures perfected.
4. Overwhelming workload – If your child is easily overwhelmed by homework and activities, help ease their fears by creating an after-school schedule together. Plan out homework time, recreation time and family time. Have a family calendar, which your child can help fill out with their various activities, big tests and more.
5. Peer issues – Peer issues can happen at any age and grade level, and can be a source of back to school fear and anxiety for many children. If your child has difficulty with certain classmates, work with your child on appropriate responses, actions and behaviors, then discreetly discuss the issue with your child’s teachers and form a plan of action (in many cases, teachers will be willing to separate children who chronically don’t get along). Help your child to understand that their teacher is to be trusted, and they should inform them when peer issues arise.
6. Separation anxiety – For many elementary children, back to school fears arise from separation anxiety, and leaving their parents and familiar home environment. If this is the case, create traditions and routines with your child to help encourage their independence, but let them know you’re there when needed. For some families, this may include volunteering in their classroom, dropping them off and picking them up each day, or sending “thinking of you” notes in their lunchbox or backpack.
Going back to school can easily trigger fears and nervousness in many children, and it’s not hard to understand why. But working with your child with a loving, understanding hand will help ease their fears, promote their independence, and help turn their back to school nervousness into excitement and anticipation.