By Tom Butero
September 3, 201 2
Hard as it is to believe, summer is over and the school year has just begun. While most children look forward to the new school year with a mixture of anticipation and lamentation that summer is over and it’s back to books, tests and homework, there are many children for whom the start of school is a source of anxiety and fear, feelings that can quickly overwhelm parents and get the y ear off to a rocky start.
Starting the y ear at a new school or making the transition from elementary to middle school, or even middle to high school, can be an overwhelming process for children. Fortunately, there are plenty of things parents can do to make these transitions as seamless as possible. Such as:
- Visit the school with y our child before the official start of classes. Many schools hold open houses, which offer parents and children an opportunity to see the school and meet new teachers. Take advantage of these opportunities. Giving your child a preview of the school will go a long way in helping the child feel less anxious and lost on the first day.
- If an open house isn’t available, ask if you can perhaps visit on y our own. Walk the halls. Better yet, let your child find his or her own way around. Help them find their way to the nearest bathroom, the cafeteria, the library and the nurse’s office. By showing them where landmarks are in the school, you remove much of the confusion that the first day can bring.
- Learn the names of other children in your child’s class. Whether children already know their classmates or not, familiarizing them with what names to expect will make them feel more at ease on the first day.
- Re- establish routines as early as possible. By getting children adjusted to an earlier bedtime, you can minimize the possibility that they will become overtired or overwhelmed with the start of school.
- If y our children are returning to the same school, remind them how fun it will be to see their friends and refresh their memories with positive stories from the previous school year. If children are starting at a new school, tell them how exciting it will be to make new friends and remind them that all of their current friends started out as strangers once too.
- Prepare y our children for social situations that may be new, such as introducing themselves to new classmates or reacting to bullies. Teaching y our children what to expect and how they can react helps ease anxiety during potentially stressful situations.
- Set a positive example by reacting calmly when y our child goes off to school, not lingering and simply expressing that they’ll be on your mind throughout the day. Stay positive and have faith that y our child can adjust to the change of going back to school and thrive in the classroom.
The first day can seem like the best or worst day of a child’s life. Either way, be there for y our children. Leave a nice note in their lunch box, sit down and talk to them when they get home, ask about their day and, if needed, reassure them that school will be better tomorrow.
By giving children the resources they needs to feel comfortable at school from day one, you are providing them with the tools to have a successful, enjoy able experience all year.
Tom Butero is a licensed social worker and site director at Child & Family Services’ Pleasant Street site in New Bedford.