As the first week of school approaches, you begin to notice a change in your child. Maybe he or she becomes nervous at the mention of starting a new school year or throws a fit every time someone brings up the subject of meeting his or her new teacher.
What could those changes mean?
For some children, acting out or withdrawing or complaining of small physical pains such as a headache could be signs of back-to-school anxiety, notes Jeremy Pettit, an associate professor of psychology at Florida International University. If you notice any of those signs as your child prepares for the upcoming school year, try these tips for easing his or her anxiety:
Get into a routine. During the summer months, children might stay up later or not always eat at set times. Getting back into normal sleeping and healthy eating patterns will give your child structure, which can help to ease back-to-school anxiety.
Make the unknown known. As you know from experience, not knowing what to expect from a new situation can make you feel anxious. The same is true for your child. If possible, help eliminate the unknown by taking your child to visit his or her new classroom and teacher, or by walking to the bus stop together a few times before the first day of school.
Be honest with your child. In the same way that honest talk can help your child to overcome a fear of the doctor’s office, honest talk about back-to-school concerns is key. Don’t try to reassure your child by telling him or her that everything will be fine. If it isn’t, your child may lose some trust in you. Be honest with your child and answer any questions that he or she might have, rather than making false promises.
Remind your child of previous positive experiences. Most likely, your child had enjoyable times during the previous school year. Talk with your child about the enjoyable times, being sure to discuss new friends made, favorite classes, or other happy memories. Doing so will help your child to feel excited rather than nervous.
Keep in contact with your child’s teacher. Since you probably won’t see first-hand how your child is adjusting to his or her new classroom and classmates, check in with your child’s teacher on a regular basis. He or she will be able to tell you if everything seems normal or if your child still might be dealing with back-to-school anxiety.