Article Title:  6 Ways to Help Kids Deal With Back-to-School Jitters

6 Ways to Help Kids Deal With Back-to-School Jitters

Tips for parents to help ease their kids’ anxiety when it’s time to go back to school.

By: Colleen Oakley

Back to school isn’t just about shiny new book bags, No. 2 pencils, and carefully ironed clothes for pictures. For a lot of kids, there’s often anxiety surrounding the first day. “The transition to any grade level can be anxiety-producing, especially if it involves moving to a new school,” says Kari Collins, Ph.D., director of mental health services at the Montefiore School Health Program. If it seems like your kid’s got some nerves mixed in with his excitement, try these tips to help ease his mind.

1. Talk it out. “Let your children know that being nervous is a normal feeling and reassure them they will feel more comfortable as time goes on,” says Collins. It’s also helpful to share examples of how you felt during your first day at school or a new job and then explain how you overcame those feelings.

2. Work through your own fears. Kids aren’t the only ones who are anxious -- parents can be, too, says Lori Lite, author of Stress-Free Kids: A Parent's Guide to Helping Build Self-Esteem, Manage Stress, and Reduce Anxiety in Children. “Children pick up on spoken and unspoken anxiety,” she says. “The more relaxed you are about school, the more relaxed your kids will be.”

3. Do a walk-through. “Visit the school campus ahead of time and arrange to meet the teacher,” says Collins. This will help to make your child familiar with the environment and more at ease with the new surroundings.


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4. Set up a playdate. If you can find at least one or two other children that will be in their class, set up a fun lunch or play time, suggests Lite. That way, they’ll see a few familiar faces on the first day. This kind of play date, says Lite, “helps kids build memories and gives them something to talk about at school.”

5. Practice introductions. “For pre-k and elementary kids, teach them how to introduce themselves to new people,” says Collins. You can role play and practice saying, “Hi, my name is Jane; what’s yours?” (Of course, it’s important to emphasize the difference between talking to peers and strangers.)

6. Ask for help. Most kids will quickly adapt to their new surroundings, says Collins, but if you’re still concerned about your child’s ability to cope with their new environment after the first month of school, seek out resources and assistance from the guidance counselor.

Colleen Oakley is a writer, novelist, and mom of two rambunctious toddlers in Atlanta, GA.

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